Ornamental Trees and Storm Damage

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Ornamental trees are some of the biggest investments, time-wise, into your landscape design. Most take years to fully mature and losing one can be a major setback and expense. Storms represent one of the biggest dangers to ornamental trees.

ornamental trees

Strong winds can snap branches and even push over entire trees. Snow and ice can weigh down branches causing extensive damage. Though it may not look like much, ice can actually add thousands of extra pounds to tree branches and can even bend a tree entirely along the trunk.

There are many ways that storms can damage, and in some instances even kill, trees. Though some damage can be utterly fatal, many damaged trees are able to survive storm damage and go on to live out the normal durations of their lives. There are several distinct classifications of storm damage to trees. Each type of damage has its own inherent long-term ramifications for the tree, and a concerned owner would do well to acquaint himself with each.

Trunk Damage

The most severe type of damage that can occur to a tree is injury to the trunk. The older and larger the tree is, the more susceptible it becomes to trunk injury, such as splitting and breaking along the central trunk. When splits and breaks occur along the main stem, the strength of the rest of the stem is diminished. If bark has become separated from the trunk then there is a high risk of wood rot. This is especially true if the bark damage is in excess of 50 square inches in area.

Decay is almost inevitable in instances where secondary stems are split from the central trunk. As the rot advances, the stem strength will be further compromised. Ultimately the hazard of damage to persons or property from collapse will make the tree a dangerous liability.


Bending is most common in saplings and smaller, young trees. Bend damage can vary substantially. The degree to which a tree can recover from bending depends on how much the trunk was bent and for how long. Bend damage can cause the central trunk to "set" at an odd angle, resulting in bends and bows. Saplings that have been bent can often be trained back into straightness with slow coaxing using stints and guide cables.


Branch breakage is an extremely common type of tree damage. Fortunately, it is seldom very detrimental to the tree (though the same cannot always be said for roofs, vehicles and other property that are under the tree when the break occurs). Branch breakage is only ever fatal if it occurs over 75% of the crown of the tree or foliated area. Over time some decay may set in at the points of breakage, but this is generally not a threat to the strength of the main or secondary stems and poses little threat to the tree itself. The development of decay can be offset by trimming the damaged branch below the point of the break.