Certain trees are damaged in storms

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By Dennis L. Patton, M.S., County Horticulture Agent, K-State Research and Extension/Johnson County

Strong storms are a normal part of Kansas weather. When those storms bring strong and straight winds, it only takes a few minutes to leave its mark on area trees. A few tree species are greatly affected by strong winds. These include:

  • Bradford Pear,
  • Silver Maple and
  • Green and White Ash.

Structure and growth habit determine trees' vulnerability to storm damage

Why do strong wind storms impact these species? It has to do with several factors that all involve the growth habit and structure of the tree. Let’s look at some of these factors and how we can help prevent the problems in the future.

All these tree species develop narrow crotches or branch angles. Narrow crotches are less structurally sound than wider ninety degree angles. The narrow crotches have less wood connecting the branch to the trunk. When stress occurs such as the weight of a swaying limb it fractures or splits out.

In addition to the narrow crotches, there are many branches coming out from about the same location on the tree. This compounds the problem of the narrow crotches as each of these limbs competes for the wood needed to support the tree. This is the main problem with Bradford Pear. As each of the limbs move in the breeze there is great internal stress placed on the branch union and breakage happens.

Narrow crotches plague Green and White Ash trees. Many of the ashes also quickly develop internal rot and decay which can weaken the tree, causing emerging limbs to completely snap off at the main trunk.

Silver Maples are a tree just waiting for an accident. The wood strength is so soft that it cannot support much weight. This weight causes the limbs to just snap and split out.

What to do with damaged trees

Once damage has occurred, what can be done? Bradford Pears should be removed. Even if only one section split out, the rest of the tree is another storm away from splitting. Do not look at the removal of a Bradford as a lost tree but as an opportunity to plant a new tree.

The Silver Maples and ash should have the damaged branches removed. Any limb that split out should be pruned back to another branch angle or crotch. Never leave a stub as this will allow rot and decay to enter the tree.

Should the tree be saved or removed?

When in doubt about whether to save or remove a tree, it is generally best to remove the tree. Small trees, such as a Bradford, can often be done by the homeowner. Larger trees that require ladder work are best left to a trained professional such as a certified arborist.

Choose replacement tree carefully

The removal of a tree is an opportunity to plant. Avoid the same mistakes by doing research and select a tree species that can withstand most storm damage. Johnson County Extension can help with this process. Call the Extension Master Gardener Hotline at 913-715-7050.


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Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050