COLUMBIA, Mo.–Homeowners eager to apply aggressive first aid to storm-damaged trees could be removing trees that might have survived.

As long as there is no physical risk to you or your family, be patient. If you are unsure about the tree’s condition, keep the tree for now, advises Hank Stelzer, University of Missouri Extension forester.

“Trees are amazingly resilient, and many recover with proper care and time, so quick action is not always the best approach,” Stelzer said.

Pruning and removing limbs with a chain saw is not the same thing as cutting firewood from a treetop already on the ground, so additional safety precautions are needed.

Branches and trees twisted and bent by storms are usually under tremendous strain that is undetectable to the untrained eye. The quick release of that stored energy by cutting with a chain saw can have dangerous results, Stelzer said.

Bent trees and branches larger than six inches in diameter should probably be removed by someone with more experience than the weekend woodcutter.

Resist the urge to over-prune, and do not “top” trees — cut main branches back to stubs. Topping reduces the amount of foliage energy needed for nourishment.

Stubs can produce weakly attached branches that are more likely to break when the next storm hits. Do not worry if your tree won’t win any beauty contests, Stelzer said. With missing branches, trees may look unbalanced, but they can heal and grow new foliage.

It’s good to remove jagged remains of smaller broken branches. Broken larger branches should be cut back to the trunk or main limb.

Choose professional help wisely and don’t be taken in by people with chain saws offering to repair your trees. Check for professional references and ask for certificates of insurance.

Additional information on storm-damaged trees and debris removal are available from University of Missouri Extension online or through your local office.

G6867, First Aid for Storm-Damaged Trees,

G1958, Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees,

G1959, Basic Chain Saw Safety and Use,


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