Yikes! This tree is scary!Every year, falling trees or branches cause tragic deaths, injuries, and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Fearing for their lives, some homeowners think they should get their trees taken down. But if the tree is healthy, this isn’t necessarily the best course of action. Just one large tree might add thousands of dollars to your property value, or its canopy could save you hundreds of dollars each year in air conditioning costs. Not to mention all the benefits a lovely tree brings to your quality of life.

Our article, "Reading a Tree for Risks and Hazards," shows some of the more obvious signs of a tree with problems. These are easy to understand and can be seen with the naked eye. Some conditions we describe indicate that your tree has a problem that should addressed by a professional arborist immediately. We also show you some trees where the "problems" aren't problems at all, but rather normal and natural occurrences that don't pose a threat to the tree.

We chose our pictures carefully to help you understand what we're talking about. Click on the dots below the images to see all the pictures in each section.

Caution! Do not substitute this short article for getting the opinion of a professional! An experienced certified arborist can spot trouble that the untrained eye will not see, and can give you advice that goes well beyond the scope of our article and, probably, your own knowledge.

How to Inspect Your Tree(s) Using the “Four Zone Approach”

To inspect a tree thoroughly, examine all four of its "zones":

Zone 1: The tree as a whole, seen from a distance;

Zone 2: The ground, including the visible roots and ground around them, and the first three feet of the trunk;

Zone 3: The trunk -- the main vertical stem(s) of the tree;

Zone 4: The crown -- the branches and leaves, including where the branches connect to the trunk, and each branch all the way out to its tips.