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Months After Irma, Are Healthy Trees Being Hauled Away As Garbage?

Nov 28, 2017
Originally published on November 28, 2017 7:40 pm

In the aftermath of any major storm, we can expect to see many toppled and uprooted trees in South Florida. But recently one massive tree in a public park in Miami-Dade was tagged with a heartfelt plea for passersby.

Stuck on the tree were two handwritten signs reading “I’m alive. So stand me up!”

“It's a good intention,” says Adrian Hunsberger, urban horticulture agent with the University of Florida/Miami-Dade County Extension Office. “But usually if it's blown over and it's laying on its side it's really beyond salvaging.”

In this interview, Hunsberger talks to WLRN’s Christine DiMattei about what makes certain downed trees unrescuable.

Interview Highlights

WLRN: How can someone with an untrained eye tell if an uprooted tree is beyond hope or “re-rootable?”  

HUNSBERGER: Unfortunately, if a tree has completely fallen over -- unless it's a young tree or something that's been recently planted -- it's probably best to have that tree removed. It could be technically alive, but it can become a hazardous tree in the future. If a tree came down in a Category 1 storm, it would never get strong enough to withstand another Category 1. It could blow over in a tropical storm. It could even blow over in a thunderstorm.

Who can people call for help in determining whether trees can be saved?

They can call their local extension office. Or if they’re in Miami-Dade County, they can just call 3-1-1.

What exactly is South Florida’s “tree canopy” and why is preserving it so important?

A canopy of a tree is the above-ground portion of the tree that has the leaves. It provides cooling. It helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It's aesthetically beautiful. There are many many benefits of having a tree canopy.

Is there any way to keep track of how many potentially healthy South Florida trees are hauled away as garbage in the aftermath of a storm?

I don't think it's physically possible. But as far as street trees and trees in parks and natural areas, there are arborists – or if it’s a parks department – they do try to keep tabs on at least the trees that have survived after a hurricane. Maybe also some of the trees that have been removed. And for the trees that are planted on a right-of-way, a lot of the municipality’s arborists will go out and assess if they’re likely to become unsound trees in the future – trees that could cause personal injury or property damage.

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If you need help with a downed tree, click here for a link to a map of county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

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