Norway Maples (Acer platanoides) are native to Europe but now constitute a major part of the urban forest in Eastern Massachusetts. They are fast growing and can reach 100 feet or more in height. They have earned a bad reputation and are now listed as invasive and are prohibited for sale. They were planted in the landscape in the 1950s but no one knew what a problem they would become.
Norway Maples are undesirable because they:
Of course, they are large trees and do provide benefits such as shade, wildlife habitat and air filtering and therefore preservation should be considered when possible. Because these maples develop more issues as they become older and larger, they need more intensive management than other species do. The best approach is to have your tree inspected by a qualified arborist and then develop a pruning plan and installation of cabling and bracing specific to your tree’s needs.
If you have trees around your home and worry about a fall, one factor to consider is the direction and intensity with which the wind typically blows through your property. If you have been living on a property for many years, you may already know its unique weather patterns. However, if you are new to a property, it is worth taking time to think through before developing a removal or pruning plan.
You can measure the wind direction and speed with simple devices like wind socks or weather vanes or go high tech with digital anemometers and other gadgets. Check out your local prevailing wind data online which graphs direction and speed of winds over many years.
Think about whether your trees are protected on the larger landscape by hills, groups of trees and/or buildings, or are they fully exposed and stand alone on a flat landscape. If there are buffers, have they long been there or have there been recent site changes such as construction or land clearing?
Trees slowly adapt over many years to the site on which they are growing by sensing where additional strength is needed and adjusting height, branching, allocating root and wood growth in order to stand upright against wind forces. Sudden, strong changes in wind direction (like from a storm) or an abrupt change in exposure can drive a tree to the point of breaking or uprooting.
The recent story in Abington, MA in which 2 people were killed when a tree fell on their car has brought about the question who will pay and who is responsible for these deaths? The land that the tree was on is supposedly owned by the City of Abington, but because it is unclear, the city must take a new survey of the property lines to see if the tree actually was on city land and also provide evidence that the city had exercised their duty of care to avoid a large payout. A duty of care is the city’s legal obligation to ensure a reasonable degree of safety for people and property near their trees. As a tree owner, you also have the same duty of care for trees on your property. Simply calling a tree falling over an ‘Act of God’ doesn’t always avoid a pointed finger.
Maintaining your trees at the very minimum should include an assessment of trees that could fall onto people or property (including neighbors, public sidewalks, roadways and utility lines). In the event that one of your trees did fall and a court case ensued, you would be able to prove that you exercised your tree care duty/responsibility by having an assessment done by a Certified Arborist. Sometimes, tree removal may be your only option depending on the conditions that are discovered upon inspection and your comfort level with the fall likelihood. In other instances, there are ways to lessen the risk that it will fall by installing cables/braces, specialty pruning and/or continuing to monitor the tree on a regular basis and before storms.
There will always be a risk as long as a tree is standing, but these options help to lessen the risk level and allow you to keep a tree that you really love and wouldn’t want to remove. Large, mature trees are typically what cause people to be scared but they also provide many benefits such as providing shade and cooling, clean air, etc. and are worth keeping if practical and non-threatening.