Need help with maple/elm trees

Charles Hesselein chessele at
Wed Sep 13 08:00:55 EST 1995

In <42rm0n$di8 at> tgray at (TGray) writes:

For future reference Bonnie Lee Appleton of Virginia Polytechnic 
Institute is currently working on tree selections for utility right of 
ways.  I believe she has some extension publications on the subject.  You 
can reach her at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Experiment Station, 1444 
Diamond Springs Rd., Virginia Beach, VA 23455, phone no. 804-363-3900.

Chazz Hesselein
Extension Horticulturist, ACES

>The local nursery is probably right.  A certified arborist in your area
>could tell you more about it, but in general, borers are dormant during
>the winter.

>> Up until four days ago I had a huge elm tree standing in my front yard.
>> That was until the electric company came -- and without my permission
>> -- obliterated the tree!  They topped it off to 1/4 of its original
>> Excuse me, "topped" is not the right word.  "HACK-SAWED* is more like
>> it!  They left completely stripped branches sticking up in mid-air, with
>> totally *chewed-off* ends.  It's a deplorable sight!

>> The electric company said that they had a right to do this because the
>> tree was near the power lines.  But they cut branches that were a good
>> ten feet away from the power lines, and growing *away* from the lines!
>> Needless to say, they have pretty much killed the tree and destroyed the
>> curbside appeal of my home.

>> What rights do I have, if any?  (The tree IS on my property, not the
>> right-of-way.)  Can I insist that they at least "neaten up" the tree,
>> because right now it's a torn-up mess.  Can I be compensated for the
>> damage -- after all, my yard looks horrible now.  It's almost worth
>> removing the tree and planting another, but I can't afford to do that.

>> Has anyone else had this happen to them?  What action did you take?

>You are definitely not alone.  I can't advise you about your rights, nor
>can I assess your tree without seeing it (contact an ISA certified
>arborist in your area), but I can steer you toward more information that
>you might use to bring your local utility up to date with healthy pruning

>It sounds as though your tree was pruned to specifications "by the book." 
>Your utility has the right and responsibility to maintain adequate
>clearance for its high-voltage power lines.  Ten feet is the correct
>target distance for such line clearance.  Unfortunately, this spells doom
>for many trees that are too large at maturity to fit under the power

>Topping, the procedure used on your tree, is a destructive practice that
>has been officially frowned on by the ISA (International Society of
>Arboriculture).  To an arborist like myself, "topping" already evokes the
>other terms you used.  But it is the only way in some cases for a utility
>to establish the needed clearance without removing the tree.

>However, it is also possible in many cases to prune tree canopies into a V
>shape so they grow around the lines, as you evidently realized.  This has
>been done in a few cities, and although it produces an unnatural form,
>it's a lot better for the tree than topping.

>Try to get a copy of a book on tree systems by Alex Shigo.  He has written
>a number of books on trees and how they grow and (particularly) heal.  I'm
>not sure whether one may have pictures of trees pruned into a V, but he
>has published a lot of information relevant to your situation.  _A New
>Tree Biology_ is probably his most complete treatment of the subject.

>Unfortunately, none of this information will change what has happened to
>your tree, and I doubt from your description whether the tree is worth
>saving at this point.  I offer this information so that you have a way to
>channel your anguish into improving the way line clearance is done in your
>vicinity.  If the tree were worth saving, you would probably not want the
>utility to fix it anyway.  Have an arborist look at it and give you a bid.

>Best of luck in dealing with this!

>T. Gray Shaw
*    Charles P. (Chazz) Hesselein         *
*    Extension Horticulturist, ACES       *
*    chesssele at          *
*    1-334-342-2366  fax: 1-334-342-1022  *

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