March 29, 2020

Homeowners across the state are mourning the loss of their trees, some of them planted to commemorate special occasions or the setting for favorite family photographs. Particularly hard hit by last week’s storms were birches, willows, hawthorns, poplars, and red, Norway and silver maples.

In Augusta, city arborist David Gomeau estimated the total tree loss to be $200,000 on city property alone.

He advised: “Leave them alone if you can. Let them thaw out, and let nature take the weight off. A lot of trees will regenerate.”

In the city of Bangor, more than 200 city-owned trees have been lost, said city arborist Roland Perry.

“Trees can be a helluva nuisance. Most of the problems we’re having now with downed power lines are caused by trees. But we are sure going to miss the ones that are gone,” said Perry.

Travelers on Interstate 95 between Fairfield and Gardiner commented that they were disoriented because the landscape has been changed drastically by downed and damaged trees. “The trees have no tops,” said Athens resident John Robinson.

But tree experts advise that residents should not be too quick to give up on damaged trees.

According to Cathy Hopkins of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, homeowners should not be in a hurry to cut split or damaged limbs. Beyond picking up branches that have dropped to the ground and removing those left hanging off other branches, it’s best to leave backyard trees alone, Hopkins advised Tuesday.

Check the major branches, said Hopkins. “It will depend on whether 25 or 50 or 100 percent of the tree is damaged, whether or not it will survive,” she said.

Perry advised that many trees can be “docked back, and they will sucker out. All pruning should be done while the tree is dormant.”

“The best thing to do is to leave it alone,” said Hopkins. “If heavy pruning is done now, the tree will come out of its dormancy to make up for all the wood it has lost. It is best to wait until late March or April.”

Hopkins advised to prune this spring, before trees’ buds begin to swell.

“And be safe if you must prune now,” she said. “This is not the time to get out the stepladder and the chain saw.”

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