The stories of the needless loss of beautiful old trees, some first hand and some through the grapevine, keep rolling in. Countless accounts of old-timey tree “experts” who troll through neighborhoods convincing people their tree is going to fall on their house. Of course, they get a “friendly” price and, yes, he tells you, he’s “insured.” Then there is the woman who wept after seeing the stark and awful difference the removal of, turns out, a perfectly healthy old oak caused in her life. There is also the couple who had a beautiful cherry removed because it wasn’t native.

How do you calculate the value these trees bring to these homes? How do we tally the annual unnecessary loss of such trees caused by irrational fears?

Routinely, seemingly more frequently, I see large trees cut down. I seldom know the homeowner’s reasoning, but I can tell by looking that many of these trees were at no risk of falling. 

Large trees are beautiful, give homes and neighborhoods ambiance, significantly increase quality of life, and provide huge amounts of ecological services. It can take thousands of sapling trees to equal the benefits of one large tree. Such magnificence should be preserved whenever possible. This generation has been the recipient of previous generations’ gifting of large trees. We are obliged to pay it forward by planting the tall trees of the future. Trees which will shade and benefit our children, their children, and beyond. 

A tale of two neighborhoods. One, modest homes with incredible trees, the other features more expensive homes baking in the sun. In which do you suppose the neighbors better know each other?

So is it legitimate to worry about large trees falling. Indeed, it is. Sometimes tall trees do fall. Sometimes they damage property when they do and, sometimes, people are killed. So, despite the fact that you are 22 times more likely to die from an accident at work than from a tree, it is something to think about. Fortunately, at a fraction of the cost of a removal, even at “friendly” off-the-books-prices, you can have your tree inspected by real experts who have the knowledge, the tools, the experience, and continuing education to give you a truthful assessment as to whether your tree is a hazard. They are called International Society of Arborists (ISA) TRAQ (tree risk assessment qualification) Certified Arborists and they have pledged, as a requirement of their membership and certification, to provide honest and truthful reports. 

Legitimately dangerous trees need removal. Period.

Is this a commercial for the International Society of Arborists? I don’t know. Is it ever bad advice to recommend that people have experts assist them with important decisions? I don’t think so. Full disclosure, I am a member of the ISA and an ISA Certified Arborist. That said, I am not TRAQ qualified and I do not work independently, so I really have nothing to gain by recommending that folks have their large trees properly assessed by professionals. Aside from the ISA, there is also the American Society of Consulting Arborists. I do not know much about them, but here are the websites for both organizations:

It could be argued that this Pinus densiflora umbraculifera is too close to the corner of the home. Yet, it is healthy, beautiful, and no threat to anyone. A valuable and rare specimen such as this not only deserves to stay but should be given the best of care.

It’s too easy to overlook the countless benefits big trees make to our lives. I like to point out that a drive through a newer McMansion neighborhood on a hot, sunny day where trees are small, young, and, more often than not, ornamental selections that will never achieve size anyway, often feels like a neutron bomb went off–not a single human being anywhere in sight. They chose to live in the suburbs at a home with some land, but lack the vision to make it the Eden they expected. Meanwhile, under the same weather conditions, a drive through an older neighborhood with a large and diverse tree canopy will be teeming with people taking walks, talking with neighbors, hosting gatherings, and you will see real human children actually playing outside. Although there are easily 100 other points one can make as to why we need more large trees, that alone should suffice. So take care to preserve your big trees and also plant the big trees for tomorrow. There are few things you can do with your property that will create such lasting value. 


Plenty of space on either side to run a pipe to the house, and yet they chose to trench directly through the root zone of a beautiful beautiful, old beech. The plumbers surely said it would be fine. They were wrong. This tree went from healthy to a hazard in a single day. When it comes to trees, don’t listen to plumbers or any other profession other than arborists.

Before construction, have a certified arborist assess potentially impacted trees and create a plan on how to save valuable specimens.