2012-07-14 / News

Storm damage mounts at Dawes Arboretum

By Scott Rawdon

JACKSONTOWN – The extent of damage to the Dawes Arboretum following the intense “derecho” storm June 28 is becoming clear to arboretum officials.

According to a July 11 press release, the sudden storm had a devastating effect on the collection trees and natural areas of the arboretum. Director of Horticulture Mike Ecker said, “Damage and loss of plants in collection areas is extensive. A total of 93 trees, mostly large native sugar maple, American beech, ash, red oak, white oak, black walnut, honey locust and hickory, are definite removals.” Ecker said a large white pine, Norway and Colorado spruce trees, and others are included in the non-native species to be removed, and the count continues as more areas are still being assessed.

Ecker said the arboretum staff continues to work on the clean-up and removal of fallen trees and limbs, but the damage will require much more time and cost. “As of Monday July 9, the total working hours approaches 500,” he said. “We are chipping and dropping and cutting up large hanging tree sections.” Ecker said many trees that have sustained severe damage to their canopies may need to be removed as well.

He said certain trees were especially discouraging losses, such as three weeping pine planted in 1962, a large buckeye planted in 1928, and a Hoops Colorado blue spruce planted in 1962, which Ecker refers to as “a fantastic focal point on the Auto Tour.”

Arboretum East, the arboretum’s mature beech-maple woods, east of the main grounds and across Ohio 13, was hit especially hard by the storm. Conservation Director Lori Totman said several dozen trees were lost there. “The typical pattern of destruction seemed to be the trees were broken off about 25 to 30 feet above the ground,” she said. Totman explained that quick action needs to be taken, but Dawes will use the most environmentally responsible methods during what has now become an unexpected timber harvest, according to the release.

As for future precautions, Dawes is putting a plan in place to minimize damage to wooded areas like Arboretum East, which sustained a level of damage that rendered the trails impassable.

The Dawes Arboretum remains open to the public during the clean-up process, and all Arboretum buildings have had power restored. Ecker summed up the task ahead. “It will take several years and lots more staff hours and contract work to recover completely from this event,” he said.

Ecker warned homeowners with tree damage against using a chainsaw to clear the damage unless extremely experienced. “Don’t go out there with a chainsaw unless you know exactly what you’re doing,” he said, adding that storm damaged trees are twisted and unevenly pressured. Damaged limbs can swing in unexpected directions once cut loose.

Ecker recommended contacting a certified arborist to deal with damage to large trees. However, he said a certified arborist may not be necessary if the tree is simply to be removed.

Ecker said any tree with multiple trunks that’s split at the base is a lost cause. “There’s no repairing that kind of damage,” he said. It’s best to replace it with a young, healthy tree. Also, Ecker said painting the damaged ends of branches to seal them will not help them heal. “Trees have their own ways of healing wounds,” he said. “A good pruning cut is the best way to help them.” Ecker encouraged people with questions about their trees to contact the arboretum.

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