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How to spot loose tree limbs on neglected trees

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Falling branches and uprooted, overturned trees can be a real homeowner headache. In fact, trees cause tens of millions of dollars in damage each year.

Arborist Jan Scow says that as cities tighten their budgets, funds for regular maintenance of city-owned trees along residential streets are being slashed.

"A lot of things can go wrong with trees," says Scow. "Limbs fall out of trees more often, but the worst thing that could happen is if the whole tree falls over. People don't have the money to take care of the city's trees any more than the city has the money to. Trees that aren't taken care of get dangerous. That's a problem."

Scow says that means everyone should pay more attention to the trees around them and report any potential hazards.

"What many cities are having to do is they're just putting out fires," says Scow. "They're going to the emergencies and trying to deal with them as best they can."

On top of poor maintenance, Scow says many trees are exposed to things that weaken roots and damage limbs, including brushes with construction, utility lines, and traffic.

Landscaper Brent Green says tree trimming is not a job for amateurs.

"You really don't want to go out and just trim a tree because you have a weekend free and you want to," says Green. "If you cut the wrong branches or cut it down the wrong way, it could potentially fall on you and hurt you or kill you."

Jan Scow says the biggest danger sign to look out for is a tree that's leaning.

"What happens when a tree is out of balance like this, the whole tree might uproot and fall over or the trunk could break or the whole tree goes over," says Scow.

But trees provide other, more subtle, clues that they're in distress. Scow says some of the things to watch for include:

  1. Mushrooms growing around the base of the tree
  2. Leaves shedding out of season
  3. Discolored leaves
  4. Seepage on the trunk

So, the next time you're at a park or just taking a walk around the block, look up and look around you. If you see a leaning or distressed tree, call and report it to the city.

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