Science News

Five Tips to Keep Trees Safe During Stormy Weather

Ongoing research funded in part by the TREE Fund provides homeowners and tree care professionals with proven strategies to help trees withstand hurricane-force winds. Strategic pruning can reduce the damage to lives and property often associated with a major wind event.


Dr. Ed Gilman, professor at the University of Florida, has spent much of his career studying the effects of structural pruning on trees in wind with support from the TREE Fund. From his research, Dr. Gilman suggests five helpful tips for homeowners and tree care professionals to maintain strong trees.

Prior to a storm:

• Explore your yard. Take a thorough look at the trees and note anything that could possibly be hazardous during stormy weather.

• Reduce the length of the tree’s longest branches by cutting back to lateral branches (branches that stem from larger branches). When cutting the longest branches make sure that the lateral branch is about one-third the width of the pruning cut to maintain the tree’s health. A certified arborist can ensure that this is done properly.

• Train young trees during the early planting stages and maintain this through the first 20 years. It is important to cut branches that grow upright and compete with the main trunk to help young trees maintain one dominant trunk throughout their lifespan.

• Interior branches are also vital to the health and structure of a tree, so it is important to resist the temptation to remove these branches while pruning.

• Unless there is branch crowding on the trunk, it is better to reduce the length of a branch rather than cutting the branch directly from the trunk of the tree.

Frazer Pehmoeller, arborist at Bartlett Tree Experts in New York, relies on many of the techniques Dr. Gilman suggests when dealing with trees and wind damage."Storms like Sandy and Katrina take down a lot of trees,” said Pehmoeller. “Thanks to Dr. Gilman’s investigations we’ve learned a lot about how to prune large trees to make them less likely to fail in high winds.”

This fall, cyclists and tree enthusiasts will gather in Florida during the last week of October for a weeklong cycling tour to raise money for tree research and education. This year’s Tour itinerary includes stops in Lakeland, Ruskin, Sarasota, Rotonda West, Punta Gorda, Matlacha, Cape Coral, Ft. Myers Beach, Naples, Everglades City, Coral Gables, and Ft. Lauderdale. Along the way the cyclists will celebrate some of Florida’s most venerable trees, educate school children about the importance of caring for the urban forest and plant 20 new trees as a legacy of their visit.

The 2016 STIHL Tour des Trees is expected to raise $625,000 for research, scholarships and education grants administered by the TREE Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to sustaining the health and viability of urban trees in every corner of the world.

Tree lovers are encouraged to learn more and support their efforts by donating at and

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