Tree repair split trunk

First Aid for Storm-Damaged Trees

School of Natural Resources

In the aftermath of a severe ice or wind storm, many homeowners ask a simple question about their trees: Will they survive? That question arises from the initial impulse to “get this mess cleaned up.” But hasty decisions can often result in removing trees that could have been saved. Follow these simple guidelines in administering first aid to your trees after a storm.

Figure 1
The nearest trees on the right in this Buffalo, Missouri, neighborhood will need to be replaced, but those in the background will survive with proper care.

Mike Van Beck, MU Landscape Services, photo

Be patient

Any medical first-responder will tell you that Rule No. 1 is to stay calm. Doing the right things right can make the difference between giving your trees a good chance of survival and losing them unnecessarily.

City officials, utility workers and private tree-care firms must focus first on dealing with hazards to life and property. After that, one of the city’s major tasks is the removal of storm debris, damaged branches and sometimes entire trees. Homeowners should be aware that a tree between the street and sidewalk is typically city-owned and is the city’s responsibility.

Trees are amazingly resilient and many recover with proper care and time. Despite the urge to do something immediately, try to be patient. As long as a damaged tree does not pose an immediate physical risk, the advice is simple: If you’re unsure about its condition, keep the tree for now.

Be safe

First aid measures for trees after a major storm almost always involve the use of chain saws. Pruning and removing limbs from storm-damaged trees is not the same as cutting firewood from a treetop already on the ground. Branches and trees that are twisted and bent 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 unpredictable and dangerous results. For safety’s sake, bent trees and branches larger than 6 inches in diameter should be removed by someone with more experience than the weekend woodcutter.

Look up and look down. Be alert for hanging branches that look like they’re ready to fall. Stay away from downed utility lines. Low-voltage telephone or cable lines and even fence wires can become electrically charged when near fallen or broken electrical lines.

If you decide to administer first aid using a chain saw, before pulling the starter rope read MU Extension publications G1958, Felling, Limbing and Bucking Trees, for the basics of felling a tree, and G1959, Operating a Chain Saw Safely, for safety reminders that should be followed each time you pick up a chain saw.

Don’t be a victim of a scam

Whatever professional help you seek, make your decision wisely, as it will have long-term consequences for your trees. Again, be patient.

During large-scale disasters, using a local professional may not be practical. However, do not be pressured into hiring people with chain saws who knock on your door offering to remove or “repair” your trees. Unfortunately, many such individuals have little or no training, and some have little interest in removing anything but money from the pocketbooks of unsuspecting residents.

However, in a widespread disaster, arborists from around the country may travel to the area to help aid in recovery. In this case, professional arborists may very well be knocking on doors as they participate in coordinated efforts to canvas large areas. Follow these guidelines to determine the qualifications of the person knocking on your door:

  • If possible, determine if they are part of an established business in the community or nearby area. If they are from out of town, look on the side of the truck for a company name and location. Then, in either case, check for a phone listing, usually under Tree Service.
  • Ask for current certificates of insurance showing that they are fully insured for property damage, personal liability and worker compensation. Call the insurer for verification.
  • Ideally, the company should on staff a member of a professional association such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), National Arborist Association (NAA) or American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Certified arborists are trained and have access to current technical information on tree care, repair and removal.

Assess the damage

Before writing off a damaged tree as a goner, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Other than the storm damage, is the tree basically healthy and vigorous? If the tree is basically healthy, is not creating a hazard, and did not suffer major structural damage, it will generally recover if first aid measures are applied.
  • Are major limbs broken? The larger a broken limb is, the harder it will be for the tree to recover from the damage. If a majority of the main branches are gone, the tree may have little chance of surviving.
  • Has the leader (the main upward-trending branch on most trees) been lost? In species where a leader is important to upward growth or desirable appearance, this may have to be a judgment call. The tree may live without its leader but, at best, would be a stunted or deformed version of the original.
  • Is at least 50 percent of the tree’s crown (branches) still intact? This is a good rule of thumb on tree survivability. A tree with less than half of its branches remaining may not be able to produce enough foliage to nourish the tree through the coming growing season.
  • How big are the wounds where branches have been broken or bark has been damaged? The larger the wound is in relation to the size of the limb, the less likely it is to heal, leaving the tree vulnerable to disease and pests. A 2- to 3-inch wound on a 12-inch diameter limb will seal over with new bark within a couple of years.
  • Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch structure? The remaining limbs will grow more vigorously as the tree tries to replace its missing foliage. Check if branches are in place that can eventually fill out the tree’s appearance.
  • Is the tree of a desirable species for its location? The best decision may be to remove the tree if the tree is not only seriously damaged but also is in the wrong location, such as a potentially tall tree beneath a power line, or is an undesirable species for the property, such as messy fruit.

Make a decision

The questions listed above will help you make informed decisions about your trees. In general, the decision about a particular tree will fall into one of three categories.

Figure 2
Although the tree has been damaged, enough strong limbs may remain on a basically healthy tree to make saving it possible.

1. Keep it
If damage is relatively slight, prune the broken branches, repair torn bark or rough edges around wounds, and let the tree begin the process of wound repair.

A mature shade tree can usually survive the loss of one major limb. The broken branch should be pruned back to the trunk. In the following months, large wounds should be monitored closely for signs of decay.

Young trees can sustain quite a bit of damage and still recover quickly. If the leader is intact and the structure for future branching remains, remove the broken branches and let the tree close over the wounds and recover itself.

Figure 3
A healthy mature tree can recover even when several major limbs are damaged.

2. Wait and see
Resist the temptation to simply cut down the tree and be done with it. Wait a while and think it over. Remember, time is on your side. Carefully prune broken branches. Then, give the tree some time to recover. You can make a final decision later.

Also resist the temptation to prune too heavily. The tree will need all the foliage it can produce to survive the next growing season. Remove only the damaged limbs, then wait and see how the tree does. For large trees, a professional arborist should be brought in to assess damage on a borderline situation and to safely accomplish needed pruning and branch removal.

3. Replace it
Some trees simply can’t be saved or are not worth saving. If the tree has already been weakened by disease, the trunk is split, or more than 50 percent of the crown is gone, the tree has lost its survival edge (Figures 4, 5 and 6).

Figure 4
This otherwise healthy young tree has lost too much of its crown. It will probably not be able to grow enough new branches and leaves to provide needed nourishment, and will never be able to regain its former beautiful shape.
Figure 5
About all that’s left of this tree is its trunk. The few remaining branches can’t provide enough foliage to enable the tree to make it through another growing season.
Figure 6
A rotten inner core in the trunk or structural weakness in branching patterns can cause a split trunk — the tree equivalent of a heart attack. The wounds are too large to ever mend, and the tree has lost its sap lifeline between roots and leaves. This tree is all but dead.

Basic tree first aid you can provide

Resist the urge to overprune
Don’t worry if the tree’s appearance isn’t perfect. With branches gone, trees may look unbalanced or naked. You’ll be surprised at how fast they will heal, grow new foliage and return to their natural beauty.

Remove any broken branches still attached to the tree
Removing the jagged remains of smaller broken limbs is a common repair property owners can make after a storm. Done properly, it will minimize the risk of decay agents entering the wound. Prune smaller branches at the point where they join larger ones. Cut large broken branches back to the trunk or a main limb. As you prune, make clean cuts in the sequence shown in Figure 7 to help the tree to recover faster.

Figure 7
For the appearance and health of the tree, prune large branches with this sequence of cuts.

Repair torn bark
To improve the tree’s appearance and eliminate hiding places for insects, carefully use a sharp chisel or knife to smooth the ragged edges of wounds where bark has been torn away (Figure 8). Try not to expose any more of the cambium (greenish inner bark) than necessary because these fragile layers contain the tree’s food and water lifelines between roots and leaves.

Figure 8
Avoid tearing the bark when pruning. Clean ragged wounds in the bark to avoid further damage.

Don’t top your trees!
Untrained individuals may urge you to cut back all of the tree’s branches in the mistaken belief that reducing the length of branches will help avoid breakage in future storms. Although storm damage may not allow for ideal pruning cuts, professional arborists say that “topping” — cutting main branches back to stubs — is one of the worst things you can do to a tree. Stubs tend to grow back many weakly attached branches that are even more likely to break when a storm strikes.

Also, the tree will need all its resources to recover from the stress of storm damage. Topping the tree would reduce the amount of foliage, on which the tree depends for the food and nourishment needed for regrowth. A topped tree that has already sustained major storm damage is more likely to die than repair itself. At best, its recovery will be retarded, and it will almost never regain its original shape or beauty.

For further information

Acknowledgments: Artwork courtesy of the National Arbor Day Foundation.

What to Do if a Storm Damaged My Tree?

A roar of thunder, an electrifying strike of lighting or a vicious gust of wind—while we stay indoors, our trees are forced to weather the storm.

We already do our best to keep trees in tip-top shape, so they’re protected from storm damage. But what if they still fall victim to the elements?

Whether light or severe, storm damage to trees can be alarming. Read on to find essential steps for inspection and repair if your tree is injured during a storm.

Repairing Storm Damaged Trees

First and foremost, your safety is the top priority. If storm damage left large hanging branches or broken power lines, call your arborist to assess the situation immediately. That limb could fall at any moment, and broken power lines could still be live, so avoid them at all costs.

How to Inspect a Storm Damaged Tree

After a storm, walk around your tree and look for these danger signs:

  • Hanging or broken branches

  • Splits in tree branches

  • Broken or uneven tree top, called the canopy

  • Decay, holes, splits or cavities in tree trunk

  • Heaving soil at the base of the tree

  • Pulled or visible root system

  • Uprooted or toppled tree

  • Entire tree leaning

If you spot any of these signs, it’s usually best to phone a professional because your tree poses a risk and could fall or break at any time. Use your discretion, and know a certified arborist can help with every step of the process. They can clean up storm debris, repair damaged spots by pruning and determine if your tree needs to be removed.

Or if you’re curious, learn more about the most common tree injuries and what to do next below.

What to Do When You Find a Broken Tree Limb

  1. Prune small, broken branches to prevent further damage. Pests see an opening in the tree as an invitation to settle in, which can be especially harmful as your tree needs extra strength to heal.

  2. Do not attempt to prune large branches or branches that are too high up.

  3. Prune broken limbs back to the point where they join a larger branch. If there are strips of bark protruding at the breaking point, remove the branch and smooth the wood with a saw.

  4. For injuries like those in #2 and #3, call a professional arborist, so the tree heals correctly and no one gets hurt.

How to Save a Split Tree

  1. Minor splits on branches that are not hanging or otherwise deformed should heal on their own. Think of these as small paper cuts that will be better before you know it!

  2. If the split looks like a gash and is still connected to an unharmed branch, smooth the bark out to help the healing process. Think of these splits as more serious injuries that need stitches to heal.

  3. Severe splits on larger branches or the trunk aren’t an easy fix. These splits are like if you broke your finger and cut it badly–a bandage just won’t cut it at this point. You need to go to the doctor, and the same is true for your tree.

  4. For splits listed in #2 and #3–or if you’re not sure how severe the split is–it’s always better to phone for help sooner than later. Plus, consultations at Davey are free.

What to Do if the Top of the Tree Broke Off

  1. Do not top the tree–even if limbs in the tree’s canopy broke off. Cutting off the top of a tree can significantly alter its structure and leave it vulnerable to infestation.

  2. Assess whether most of the tree’s crown is still intact.

  3. If at least 50 percent of your tree’s canopy is undamaged, it can usually stay afloat–with help from your local arborist. But if your tree lost more than 50 percent of its top, it may have to be removed.

  4. Your arborist can give you a definite answer and provide next steps after seeing the tree in person.

What To Do When Your Fruit Tree Breaks

“The snow has broken my trees…What can I do?

Don’t worry, you can save this tree!

The heavy snow and ice we have had in the Pacific Northwest in the last few days has severely damaged lots of trees including fruit and nut trees. It was scary at night in the snow storm every few minutes hearing a loud crack followed by a thud as large branches of big trees kept breaking and falling to the ground. On our road alone there were dozens of trees broken off and fallen across the road taking power lines with them. Many fruit trees have major ripped off branches.

So what to do? First if the trees are large, don’t walk near the trees and wait until the snow is off the branches. I’ve noticed most of the branches break on big heavy branches with V shaped crotch angles (This is the proof of why when you shape your fruit tree, make sure you prune off branches with the narrow crotch angles.)

The broken branch, if its attached to a main or the main trunk, rips out and compromises the tree above that point. Saw off the broken branch. Then look below that point to see if can cut down the tree to undamaged side branches and still have an okay shaped tree. It might not be perfect but can you live with the new shape? If so, make a smooth cut about a quarter inch above the top side branch you are keeping. If you make a clean cut you won’t have to use tree heal. The cut will heal itself.

If the tree is too unbalanced look even lower on the trunk and see if there is a somewhat upright branch that you could cut right above. Even though the branch is small and the old trunk is big, it can become the new top of your tree. If needed you can stake up the new branch. You can tip the new branch back and this spring it will send out side branches and a new top that will become the start of your new tree.

Remember that your fruit trees, except figs, are grafted. Therefore you cannot start your new tree from a sucker growing out of the ground below the graft. But why, you might ask would you want to do this rather than planting a new tree. A good reason is that the roots of your tree are established and its winter and the carbohydrates are stored in the roots. As spring comes all the energy from the roots will enable lots of vigorous growth in your existing tree.

If you aren’t sure whether it is worth trying to save your tree, you could buy a new tree from Raintree Nursery. However you could also fix your broken tree best you can and even though its lopsided, keep the tree for a few years while your new tree comes to bearing age.

If your tree is destroyed you can still “save it” by making a genetic copy? Now is the time to cut scionwood from the tree. Look at our rootstock section of our website for more info. Cut off pencil size wood from new vegetative growth which you will find near the end of branches. Even though the branch is broken off, the scionwood is still good. Store pieces from 6 to 12 inches long in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag with a piece of wrung out wet paper.

You can purchase rootstock to graft a new tree of graft a branch on an existing fruit tree, thus saving that variety. Go to our class seminar page and come to our grafting classes where you will learn how to do a cleft or side graft on to the remains for an existing tree or how to do a whip and tongue graft to make a new tree from a rootstock. We can also graft your scionwood on to a rootstock if you come to the nursery and call ahead to make an appointment. Our grafting classes are on March 9th in Morton and March 23rd at Raintree. On March 2nd at the WSU Extension Unit in Mt. Vernon WA. There will also be grafting classes as there will be from the Western Cascade Fruit Society and from other groups around the state and nation. Each of these events also has rootstocks and scionwood available for sale.

All this is said to help you salvage and protect your trees. We of course would love it if you purchase some new fruit trees from Raintree. Look at our website for the almost one thousand wonderful varieties we offer.

How do I treat a wound where a branch broke off my apple tree?

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Trees depend on their root systems for a variety of reasons. Roots help to anchor a tree and keep it upright, as well as draw water and nutrients from the ground. They also serve as a site for food storage, which helps give plants the ability to survive during difficult times.

But root damage is an unfortunately common problem among trees in urban and suburban areas. And because roots are so vital for a tree’s survival, prompt treatment is crucial. Without proper care, root damage can cause a tree to decline and eventually die. In some cases, root damage can even predispose a tree to failure, representing a serious safety hazard.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the common causes and symptoms of root damage, as well as some of the treatment strategies used to save such trees.

Common Causes of Root Damage

Tree roots can be damaged from a variety of causes, but some of the most common include:


A variety of animals – primarily insects – feed on the roots of trees. Fortunately, most such problems are somewhat self-limiting and respond to various exclusion and extermination techniques.

Soil Compaction

Compressing the soil around a tree’s roots can inhibit their growth and even cause physical damage. Soil compression can result from a variety of causes, but frequent foot traffic and the use of heavy machinery (such as that used in construction projects) are two of the most common. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to address compacted soil.

Trenching or Digging

Anytime you dig in the area around a tree, you risk damaging its roots. And unfortunately, this type of damage can occur while digging the shallowest trenches or holes, as the bulk of a tree’s find absorbing roots (the ones that do most of the heavy lifting for a tree) are found within the upper 12 to 18 inches of the soil.

Landscaping Activities

Mowers, edgers and weed whackers can all damage a tree’s roots and expose the tree to fungal and bacterial infection. This type of damage is especially unfortunate, as it is very easy to prevent through the use of mulch or protective barriers.

Symptoms and Sequelae of Severed Roots

Depending on the severity of the root damage, trees can exhibit a number of different symptoms. Some of the most common and obvious include the following:

Crown Dieback

Crown dieback refers to the progressive death of a tree’s canopy. In some cases, the damage will be limited to a single branch (or portion thereof), while other cases will involve the complete death of the canopy.

Poor Growth or Vigor

Trees with damaged roots cannot grow and thrive as they should. This can cause them to grow slowly, exhibit poor health or fail to reach their typical size.

Leaning or Soil Mounding

Many trees grow at angles, and this is not necessarily a cause for concern. However, trees that suddenly develop a lean can be very dangerous, as it suggests that some of their roots are failing or that there is a problem with the soil. Mounding soil (typically on the side opposite the direction of the tree’s lean) represents a safety emergency – always contact a qualified arborist immediately if you notice the soil rising around the base of a tree.

Premature Leaf Drop

Trees that cannot draw sufficient water or nutrients from the soil are often unable to maintain a full, vibrant canopy. This can cause their leaves to change colors or drop earlier than is typical for the species and region.

What Can Be Done to Help Trees with Damaged Roots?

Unfortunately, significant root damage can lead to the death of a tree. However, trees can often overcome minor cases of root damage – particularly when supportive measures are implemented. Some of the most common steps taken to support trees with root damage include:

  • Mulch Application– Mulch helps to protect and nourish tree roots, which can help them survive and produce new roots.
  • Radial Trenching – Radial trenching involves the careful excavation of soil throughout the root area and addition of nutritious topsoil or mulch, which helps to support the tree’s roots and encourage new growth.
  • Vertical Mulching – Vertical mulching is accomplished by digging holes in strategic places throughout the root zone, which are then filled with nutritious mulch or other materials to encourage root growth.
  • Fertilizer Application – In some cases, fertilizer can help support the development of new roots.
  • Root Pruning – Although it seems counterintuitive, trimming or pruning the roots of trees in specific locations can help stimulate the tree to develop new roots.
  • Supportive Measures – Because trees are often unstable, it is often necessary to support these trees with cables, braces or props to keep them upright while they regenerate a healthy root system.


If one of your trees has suffered from root damage or exhibits symptoms that suggest it has, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. One of our experienced arborists will visit your property, assess your trees and recommend a prudent course of action. We may not be able to help you save every tree that’s sustained root damage, but we’ll gladly provide you with every possible option for doing so.

Empire Parking Lot Services Blog

Again, it is better to design your landscape so as to reduce or mitigate the effects of root damage. This can be done with careful choice of location and species, by designing the lot itself to accommodate roots, and by installing root barriers from the beginning.

However, if you are unable to do so and your lot does become damaged requiring asphalt repair, then the tips above will help avoid a costly lawsuit caused by a fallen tree. If in doubt, consult an arborist. If you are remodeling your lot, then take shade trees into account. For example, you may be able to add a raised sidewalk next to the trees, improving pedestrian access and helping solve the problem without significantly reducing the number of available spaces. Whatever action you take, consider both the health of your lot and that of your trees.

Empire Parking Lot Services has years of experience repairing both asphalt and concrete throughout Southern California. As a fully licensed and insured contractor, we would love the opportunity to help you work through the complexities of asphalt and concrete damage caused by tree roots. We can work directly with you, or work with your arborist or landscaping contractor. Give us a call today and see why we are the highest rated paving contractor in Southern California.


  • Parking Lot Repair,
  • Parking Lot,
  • Tree Roots

What To Do For Storm Damage Tree’s Repair

Assessing storm damage of trees can be a daunting task. However, what many people do not know is that most trees have their own unique healing abilities, which can take the worry (or necessity) out of any storm damage tree’s repair. Read on for more info on storm damage tree repair.

Tree Bark Damage

While most people begin to panic once there is noticeable tree bark damage, this doesn’t have to be the case. There is still hope for your tree and its overall survival depending on the amount of damage. Most minor damage can be easily fixed by removing injured tree bark. In some cases, as with large split branches or trunks that have not broken off, the tree can be braced.

In many instance, there’s no need to do anything. Trees have a natural defense against wounds and injury. While wounds will always remain on the tree, they will seal up on their own to prevent further decay, forming what is called a callus.

What Do I Put on a Cut Tree Limb?

As trees, for the most part, are able to heal themselves, tree wound sealant and other tree wound dressings are oftentimes not necessary. Tree wound dressings, which are normally petroleum based, do not stop or prevent decay.

Likewise, tree wound sealants and paints are no longer recommended. In fact, tree wound sealants and tree wound dressings may actually interfere with the tree’s natural healing ability, making it difficult to form the life-saving calluses that help prevent decay or disease.

Storm Damage Tree’s Repair

There are typically three kinds of tree damage: branch wounds, trunk wounds and root wounds. Most branch wounds can be easily fixed with pruning. For instance, small trees or those with little damage can usually be taken care of with minor pruning of dead, dying or damaged limbs.

Larger trees, however, may require the advice of trained professionals, especially those with high-reaching limbs. Trees with severe tree bark damage, or trunk damage, may need to be removed.

The same goes for trees having significant root damage. Injured roots can weaken the foundation of trees, requiring prompt removal. Keep in mind that the use of appropriately sided pruning tools is important. That’s why the bigger jobs call for bigger equipment and knowledgeable tree cutters.

Remember, for minor storm damage tree’s repair, light pruning may be all that’s needed to remove branch or tree bark damage. Call in a professional for those more difficult jobs or for advice as to the extent of tree damage if you’re not certain.

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