As a tree service with certified arborists, we get lots of tree questions, such as “Why are my trees leaning, and is it safe?” If the tree in question is a young, newly planted tree, the recommendations to properly stake that tree for a year is a good idea. If you have a mature tree (5 or more years old) that’s leaning, there’s a good chance you’ll need to remove this tree.
Why are my trees leaning?
Let’s deal with the “Why” first. In most cases, a mature tree starts to lean because its root system can not properly anchor any longer. It may be possible that the root system has been diminished over time by it rotting due to excessive moisture. There may have been construction trauma to this area in the past, actually removing part of the tree’s underground support system. The tree may have been planted years ago, with a poorly-developed root system. It may have been poor nursery stock. Its installer may not have known the proper way to plant a tree.
Maybe the surroundings of this area changed in another manner. Other trees or buildings that served as windbreaks in the past may have been removed. This leaves the tree more susceptible to prevailing winds. Additionally, the tree’s canopy (the part above the trunk with the leaves) could be disproportionately heavy compared to its woody structure holding it up. Some varieties of trees are more predisposed to these types of stresses, and also will be more inclined to root rot if in soils that are too wet, as they aren’t the preferred site for that variety.
Is the tree safe?
When evaluating hazards, you have to look at what the potential targets are. In other words, if this tree falls, what is it capable of landing on? This will determine the urgency to remove a leaning tree. To what angle is it leaning? The sharper, the more of a hazard. What is the soil like around the base of the tree? Is it cracked and loose indicating root system movement? Can you see the tree trunk moving on a windy day?
If your tree is obviously dangerous or if your peace of mind is at stake, have it removed. If you have any question in your mind, don’t trust your judgment. Consult with a professional that is unbiased. Find a tree service with Certified Arborists that can evaluate tree hazards and can perform a tree removal if the situation warrants it.