Keeping trees healthy key to surviving storm season

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Just this week, Mother Nature reminded us of her power.

Strong spring storms splitting huge tree trunks, uprooting them from the ground, and causing major damage to homes and vehicles. And a lot of this can be prevented.

“That’s what gets me up in the morning, is to know there is ways we can try to minimize that,” said Dr. Jake Miesbauer, an arbor culture scientist at the Morton Arboretum.

Working in the facility’s tree lab he uses technology to study tree development, root systems, and what keeps our urban forest upright.

“We’re learning more about that how we can prune trees and how we can care for trees so that they’re more resilient when storms come through,” Miesbauer said. “What we’ve found is when branches are small relative to the diameter of the trunk they’re more strongly attached.”

Even before pruning, understanding your tree’s health is crucial to its capability to withstand storms. Miesbauer said large cracks, hollows, or a lot of mushrooms or conches growing on the sides of trees are strong indicators there is decay on the tree and that there’s probably potential for future damage.

Miesbauer recently showcased some of the extensive technology he uses to study tree decay to tree experts from around the region, including the USDA forest service.

“The fact of the matter is there are a lot of trees in these urban environments and we’re just starting to really look at the urban forest and what the urban forest has to give us,” he said.

What it gives: shade, oxygen, a healthier community. But experts here say it’s important for homeowners to get expert advice on the health of their trees.

Bruce Allison, an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the creator of a handheld device tree experts will soon be able to use to detect tree decay in its early stages.

“It uses a single sound wave passing through the tree, measuring the time of flight of that sound wave. If there is a defect in the tree it takes longer for that sound wave to move through,” Allison said.

Studies at the Arboretum’s Tree Lab, what experts here call one of the best in the world, are ongoing. They use new technologies like 3D printing and computer models to better understand how our urban lifestyle can affect our urban forest without having to damage the nature we’re surrounded by.



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