Garden Detective

‘Leaner’ tree may be falling in slow motion

Q: My 20-year-old, 25-foot-tall liquidamber tree has recently started leaning significantly. It’s as though one side of the tree has stretched, causing it to lean. I am concerned that if it remains leaning that it will break if or when we get a wet snow next winter.

I’m thinking of using a rope tied at about 10 feet from the ground to secure it and trimming a couple of the higher limbs on the side that is leaning toward the ground (to lessen the weight on that side). Do you think these are good actions to take? What’s your advice?

Michael Hill-Weld,

Nevada City

A: If your tree was vertical (meaning its axis was at a right angle to the ground), but has moved from the vertical position, it’s a “leaner.”

According to UC master gardeners, leaners can be thought of as trees that are in the process of falling over – they simply haven’t gone all the way.

A leaner may indicate the breakage or weakening of the roots. Sometimes, the ground is lifted on the side of the tree opposite to the lean and the roots may be exposed.

Several factors need to be considered to determine if the tree can be secured upright and/or the canopy thinned to reduce weight.

Crown pruning will reduce wind load; however, it will also slow root development.

A thorough evaluation should be conducted to determine what action, if any, is necessary, including removal of the tree. Have your tree evaluated by a trained arborist for recommendations.

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