Safety In Numbers

April 26, 2023 · 3 minute read
Safety In Numbers

Why it’s better to keep a lot of trees vs. removing some.

If you’re a homeowner with a lot of trees and I’ve been to your property, you’ve probably heard me use the idiom “safety in numbers” as a way to ease some anxiety that may be felt when living with a lot of trees. I get a good feeling when that understanding is realized by someone that has me over to help determine if they need to be worried or not. If your trees are at least fairly healthy and sturdy, then I believe in “the less work, the better” – and the more trees, the better. I’m okay with being a terrible salesman, and I think that arborists with a true love of trees should be. Don’t get me wrong however – I do believe it’s crucial to see a threat when it exists and deal with it accordingly. I just think having a large healthy tree(s) near the house is a gift, not a hazard. However, I do get nervous when someone is contemplating the removal of larger trees while trying to keep a few.

There are several reasons for this, most of which are sort of common sense when you think about it:

  • The outer trees on a property shield inner trees from harsh wind.
  • The inner trees in turn may protect the home from the unfortunate chance an outer tree fails.
  • Also, (in the event a tree close to the home fails) the closer it is, the less chance there is for it to gain momentum.
  • Another thought I have about trees close to the home is to keep those lower limbs over the house. Granted, there should be separation from the house for airflow and light in order to keep mildew away. But if wind breaks a limb that is higher in the canopy, then the more limbs it has to get past, the slower it becomes (think “Plinko” from The Price Is Right).
  • Then there is what’s going on underground. Trees in close proximity have a symbiotic relationship through fungus roots called mycorrhizae. These fungi have long connective tentacle-like tissues called mycelium that connect with other roots to form a network of communication, almost like insects. Think of trees as convivial super organisms that are happiest in the company of their likes. It may sound like “hocus pocus,” but contrarily it’s just science – and quite true.

Now, you may be thinking, “I live on a property with only a few trees and perhaps a lot of room in between” or maybe you only have one tree. If this tree or trees have grown in this environment for the better part of their life, then they have grown the stabilizing roots needed to sustain their integrity.

I know we all have heard of or maybe we know someone that has dealt with the horrible inconvenience of having to remove a tree from their house, or maybe we’ve even been through it ourselves. But almost always an arborist can conclude some abiotic factor that lead to the failure, rather than just a tree that one day decided to fall.

It’s important when you have large trees to know what they need to be healthy and stable, and it starts with the soil. If it’s a group of trees, consider the relationship that is underground. Likely, there’s a co-dependency happening that not only works to maintain the health within them, but also inadvertently helps to protect the inhabitants above the ground.