Trees are beautiful and provide many benefits.

If trees are not properly maintained, they can create hazard to property and human being. The 2019 hurricane season began June 1st and will end Sept. 30. It’s hard for us not to remember how destructive Hurricane Michael was in the Panhandle 2018 and Hurricane Irma was in Central Florida in 2017.

I remember seeing trees falling on roofs, crushing cars and blocking streets. While we may not able to save all trees from toppling over, proper maintenance can reduce the number of trees lost during hurricane season. After Irma, I have observed that many of the fallen trees had structural decays. They were improperly pruned, and dry branches were present.

One thing to keep in mind, is that proper tree selection is the first line of defense when it comes to hurricane resistance. Poor quality trees will not withstand high speed wind.

The following trees have great wind resistance and will not break easily during a hurricane; Southern magnolia, live oak, crape myrtle, bald cypress, and sabal palm. The following trees are proven to have low wind resistance; sand pine, Chinese elm, water oak, and laurel oak.

Maintenance: It is encouraged that property owners properly maintain their trees. If trees are not properly pruned and maintained, they can become liabilities.  Do not overfertilize young trees, as this may encourage excessive weak growth which may not be able to withstand strong wind. Established trees do not need to be fertilized. In addition, it is important that landowners remove all dead trees before they cause damages to their own property or to adjoining property. One Florida statue states that if a landowner’s dead tree falls on his neighbor’s property, the owner of the tree is responsible for damages the tree may cause to his neighbor’s property. On the other hand, if a landowner’s live tree falls on the neighbor’s property, the tree owner is not responsible for damages. I am reminding you of this law so that you are aware of the liability that you may assume if you do not remove dead trees.

Tree removal: If a tree is on the boundary line and you believe it will not withstand a hurricane, be sure to communicate with the neighbor. What is the Florida rule for the removal of a healthy tree on boundary line? The removal of a tree on the boundary by one landowner without the consent or authorization of the adjoining landowner may result in liability for “reduction in value of the land resulting from removal of the tree” as well as for the “loss of the ornamental value and creature comforts provided by the tree” (Elowsky v. Gulf Power Company).

Chainsaw safety: According to CDC, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chainsaws each year. Homeowners bought more chainsaws during hurricane season, which increase the potential risk of chainsaw injury.

For your safety, it is advisable to read the safety manual and wear all safety gear as describe in the manual.

I recommend that you hire a professional tree service to remove trees that are close to structures and are tall with large diameter. Before hiring a tree service, be sure that they have a certified arborist on staff, are local, licensed, and insured.

For more information on any horticulture related topics, contact Grantly Ricketts at gricketts@ufl.edu or 321-697-3000.