Assessing Trees for Storm Season

Encouraging pollinators and understanding possums
Photo by iStock / Getty Images: Pratchaya

Get ready for storm season. Just don’t forget to prepare your trees, too.

Trees in decline are especially hazardous. Their compromised health makes them subject to uprooting and breakage.

Wind can stress the tree with enough force at its angle of vulnerability and result in a collapse. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to tell how much wind is required to produce the failure.

Trees show several key indicators of their declining health.

Mushrooms growing on or very close to trees is a sign the tree is dying. The fungus is not the cause but an indicator.

A tree’s crown, or the uppermost branches and leaves, offer another sign.

Healthy trees and plants have green and growing crowns. When the crown turns brown and the leaves drop off, it is an indicator the tree’s days are numbered. Causes may include disease, lightning or mechanical interruption of the root system.

Lastly, bifurcation — or trunk forking — tells of a structurally weak tree. This condition may start when the tree emerges from the ground or occur at a place on the trunk during growth.

Any trees with these problems should be evaluated by a certified arborist and removed when necessary. A proactive investment can save on expenses, inconvenience and aggravation if a dying tree is toppled by a storm.

Support local pollinators

Pollinating plant

Photo by iStock / Getty Images: L Feddes

Perfectly manicured landscapes make for beautiful lawns but do not sustain many pollinators.

Many pollinators are insects with specific requirements. They need nectar, pollen and specific foliage to survive.

Nectar and pollen support adult pollinators while seeking a site to leave eggs. The correct vegetative matter is critical for the larva to mature and reproduce.

Very few are indiscriminate eaters and are usually considered a pest species. Maintaining a lawn while encouraging pollinator activity requires some planning.

Native plants are best when left through their entire life cycle. These may be annuals, biennials or perennials, but they need to be undisturbed during the growing season.

Caterpillars that produce butterflies may consume most of the leaves on their chosen plant. A chewed-on plant leaf may not be as pleasing to the eye, but they are much better for the environmental health of your lawn.

Place pollinator plants in a secure, out-of-the-way location where there will be less temptation to disturb the pollinator’s life cycle.

Playing Possum


Photo by iStock / Getty Images: Galinast

Opossums are a common nocturnal native. The resourceful scavenger is found in forests, pastures and even places where humans reside.

The possum, as it is usually known, is distantly related to the kangaroos, wallabies and koalas of Australia. Females have a pouch — called a marsupium — where offspring reside after birth for two months while they develop and grow.

After leaving the pouch, young possums often ride on their mother’s back when traveling outside of the den. A slow creature, possums find it difficult to avoid vehicles, which causes many possum fatalities in urban and suburban areas.

Opossums have 50 teeth — more than any other North American mammal. A prehensile tail and opposable thumbs make them capable climbers.

Opportunistic feeders, they eat a diversity of readily available foods including bird eggs, chickens, moles, earthworms, insects, snakes, grass, fruit, pet food and garbage.

When threatened, possums start with a hiss and snarl. If the defensive bluff proves ineffective, they lie down and pretend to be lifeless for several minutes — an act known as playing possum.

Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County extension director.


Categories: Gardening, Landscaping