Thursday, January 5, 2017

Palo verde ripped in half

Well, not quite, but almost...

Tuesday night was rainy and so windy that I was uneasy going to bed. I'm sure you're familiar with the feeling: The wind was howling, and you just know that no good will come of it. Still, the worst I expected was leaf litter and general debris everywhere, which indeed was the case the next morning.

In fact, I almost missed this as I was walking the perimeter of our property looking for damage:


This is standing in the driveway looking towards our neighbor's property. The first thing I noticed was the broken Aloe cryptopoda inflorescence. And then I realized that it was just the tip of the iceberg.

This is what greeted me on the sidewalk:


Looking in the other direction:


One of the major branches of our palo verde (Parkinsonia 'Desert Museum') had snapped off:


Not just that; it took a good chunk of trunk with it:


See the brown area at the breakage point? That's what's called "included bark." It can happen on most trees; the only way to prevent it from becoming a problem is judicious pruning. Since we weren't used to the explosive growth of these trees, we didn't prune them as hard as we should have. In hindsight, we should have been much more alert and aggressive.


The damage to the trunk seems serious, but I was assured that it probably looks worse than it is. If the vascular system in the trunk is still functional, the tree will survive. I won't do anything for now other than keep my fingers crossed. This is my favorite out of our three palo verdes, and I really want it to live.


The timing of this incident is unfortunate because right now curbside yard waste is only picked the first Monday of each month (i,.e. the last pickup was the day before this happened). Luckily, our neighbor let us use her driveway to "store" the broken branch until we can chop it up into smaller chunks and dispose of it in our green bin, which is picked up weekly.


Another fortunate thing: The branch that snapped off only broke one leaf on the beautiful Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' next to it. It could easily have landed right on top of it and smashed it to pieces.


2017 is only five days old and it's already up to no good. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come...

16 comments:

  1. Frustrating, isn't it? I make the effort to heavily thin and prune all the really fast growing trees in my garden and client's gardens before fall rains come, to try and preclude such damage. Especially evergreens with multiple trunks and/or narrow crotches. For me that includes any Eucalyptus, Acacias, etc. It was super windy here also last Tuesday, and all I lost were a few woody 10 foot tall branches on a Salvia iodantha out front. I know I should worry about the Fruitless Mulberry street tree in front, as it has major rot at the trunk where 12 diameter branches were cut 30 years ago, before I bought my place. I wish I could get the city to just remove it.

    On your Parkinsonia, you might do well to selectively prune it to beef up major well placed limbs, remove weak side branches with narrow crotches or prune to give one dominance, and reduce overall size and encourage less low hanging branches. Fast growers like that could use thinning at least twice a year while young. I thin out Acacia cognata every 2 months the first several years, because otherwise they'd lose branches or start leaning, they just grow too fast compared to the stabilizing roots.

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    1. David, this is very valuable information. I will put it to good use--and be much less timid about pruning in general.

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  2. Damn! I'm sorry...all that and no ice storm. I'll be holding my breath this weekend, they're saying our next ice storm could be worse than the last one. Maybe I should get Andrew to help me tend to the leaning Acacia. I'm so glad this wasn't worse...but that poor Agave!

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    1. Another thing we didn't do as well as we should have: stake these trees. Not this palo verde one as much, but the other two, which are now leaning toward the street. Another lesson learned.

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  3. OH NOOOO! That is so unfortunate! Such a lovely tree, I hope it survives and heals over! We are going into two freezing days and we will see what melts to the ground.
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Heartbreak and joy: gardening always seem to vacillate between these two :-).

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  4. I've cut mine to the ground (after a nearby fire scorched the whole side of the tree) and it resprouted with vigor and was back to full size in less than two years. So don't panic, it's not going to die. You might consider doing the same, the trunk is not going to look attractive after this, although it's low enough to screen with low growing plants in the front of it. Sue

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    1. I remember you saying that! I think ours will live. Warren Roberts happened to drop by on Thursday and he thought it'll be fine. But I like your idea of screening what will be an ugly scar. Maybe using that very white Cotyledon that grows next to the Agave ovatifolia.

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  5. That's a damn shame Gerhard ! I am not looking forward to the wind predicted for this weekend, my Liquidambar is way too big and way too close to the house--not planted by me I might add . Hope your beautiful Palo Verde recovers .

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    1. I would never have thought this palo verde would break. It looked so symmetrical...

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  6. Yikes! I hope you're able to save that beautiful tree. I admit I'm a bit nervous here that trees damaged by drought may be destabilized by saturated soil. I had the majority of our trees trimmed in early December (part of my ongoing effort to accommodate the neighbor who has yet to sell her house and move) but trees come down in the rain along the main road through the peninsula with disturbing regularity.

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    1. You and me both! I'm not super paranoid. Fortunately it hasn't been that windy again. But it's been raining a lot today...

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  7. Sorry to see that! That hurts. It is always a learning process, and now you know more about PV than you did before, though at a cost. Hope it turns out okay--perhaps the scar may become "character".

    We get terrible wind events here, so I know that uneasy feeling well.

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    1. I don't mind learning--in fact, that's a major thing I love about gardening. But I would have preferred to have learned my lesson on some other tree, maybe that hideous Bradford pear we still have (a city tree).

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  8. The real lesson to take away is look for potential problems. Narrow crotch angles with equally sized caliper branches is an obvious danger sign, and likely to split in high winds. Prune one to favor the other while relatively young. Thin out, head back to thicken up main scaffolding, reduce lengths of extra long branches that can act as wind sails, etc, etc. If you do this starting out with young trees while you can easily access them, you'll save yourself a lot of grief down the road.

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  9. We've had a lot of trees come crashing down, mostly eucalypts that we inherited with the house, so I know that sick feeling of waking up to damage. I keep loppers out so I can put my hands on them year-round, mainly because I plant so densely that stuff constantly needs limbing up -- but it keeps stuff healthy too. I didn't know the palo verdes grew so fast!

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