Tree Preservation

    1. TREE PRESERVATION ARTICLE                 (attached )

How do you know if you’ve got the right guy at your corporate door to preserve your tree?  Well, you either got a word-of-mouth referral or you saw his advertisement somewhere; perhaps on the web, perhaps you googled, tree preservation; perhaps you found the guy in print somewhere.  But you’re a smart guy yourself.  You did not get to where you are by not asking the right questions.  If you did marry the boss’s daughter you earned your position.
You already know that the 1st question you should pose regards the ANSI standards. Those are the standards that the attorneys will look at when something goes wrong.  You’re out a lot of money and the tree did not get treated as you contracted for.  It happens.  All the time.   If the guy looks at you with a blank stare you’ve probably got the wrong person.  Remember please, the first rule of tree preservation as far as the arborist is concerned, or for that matter any assignment, is to protect the client.  You cannot protect the client from tree failures, wrongful death, personal injury, or breach of contract by not first covering your posterior with national standards.
But what about after national standards, what comes next?  Well, the tree care practitioner in front of you should at a minimum present to you some testing to be conducted on the tree you are considering to preserve.  Recall what happens when you go for your annual checkup.  Does the doctor take blood work?  What would your reaction be if the doctor came into the office, sat down, and started telling you what was wrong with you?   No bloodwork.  No x-rays.  No type of testing whatsoever.  Just started to diagnose your problem by looking at you.  How would you respond?  Seriously.  After the initial shock you most undoubtedly would leave his office never to return and never to have forgotten the experience.  Yet you’re ready to do that with the important tree which you hope to preserve.  Right?  Right.
The arborist at your proverbial door should be recommending to you soil testing and tissue testing.  Think of a buffet table.  As you walk down the endless array of choices before you, do you take a little bit of everything that’s offered?  Of course not.  Now think of the soil in which your tree is growing as the buffet table.  You need to know what’s on that table before you make a selection.  You need to know what’s in the soil before you start the preservation protocol.  But what’s in the soil is only part of the story.  You also need to know what the tree has taken up from that which is being offered.  That’s tissue testing.  The soil may, but certainly will not, have an abundance of nutrients in it but the tree will not take up all of those nutrients.  Just like you did not take a sampling from the buffet table of everything that was being offered.  It must be known what nutrients are present in your tree and at what levels they are at.  Otherwise, how can the arborist know what nutrients to apply and at what levels?  He can't.’ Unless there are both tissue and nutrient testing.
Once your arborist has both of these tests they should be placed in a juxtaposition for analysis.  There is a plethora of diagnostic information that must be known before a tree can be successfully preserved.  As an example, probably the most important component is the soil pH.  PH, the power of hydrogen, tells you if the soil is “sweet” or if the soil is “sour”.  Why?  Because soil ph affects the ability of taking up certain nutrients from the soil profile into the tree.  PH affects a number of other things including microorganisms and their activity in the soil.  For your purposes, you want to know about the up take phenomena.  There’s also the cation exchange capacity which will tell you what nutrients will leach out of the soil profile which in turn will enable you to create a maintenance regime that will keep the tree healthy in the after situation of the preservation effort.  The estimated nitrogen release is another important component of soil testing.
More easily explained are “danger words” or “quack-talk” that is certain to come from the person in front of you should they not know that of which they speak.  Some of these bad words include organic inoculations, liquid organics, mycorrhizae injections / inoculations, deep-root fertilization, and fertilization itself; especially bad, nitrogen.  Should you hear any of these words please let them serve as danger signal to you that the person in front of you knows not of tree biology or meaningful tree preservation. They are quacks.  Sometimes unwittingly; sometimes not.  But it doesn’t make a difference.  Get them out of your office as quickly as possible.  If they sit there too long they may talk you into buying their service.  And that would be a mistake.

Wrongful Death


In this matter a woman is tragically killed by a falling pine tree while riding her bicycle on a populated and highly used bike path.

There is an eyewitness to the event.  There is a video recording of the subject limb which failed killing the woman taken immediately after the incident by a relative.  Across from me is a PhD in arboriculture and a registered consulting arborist.  The former expert meticulously measures the weight of the subject tree limb.  He measures the subject limb’s length and diameter.  He presents an opinion as to the percentage of decay that was in the subject live at the time of its failure.  The subject tree limb weighs approximately 300 pounds.  There was approximately 40% decay located within the subject limb.  The registered consulting arborist testifies to a 33% rule acknowledging an observation made by a researcher regarding the amount of trees that fell in a stand of pine trees during a wind event.  There is 1st responder testimony regarding the subject limb and resultant death.  Governmental codefendant settles for policy limits.  The arborist retained by the homeowners association, where the subject tree was growing, testifies that he must have missed during his inspection close to the incident date, the obvious and open defect in the subject tree prior to its failure.  There is testimony by an eyewitness to the fact that the subject tree was dead or near dead at the time of its failure.

Upon close examination of the facts, especially the video taken of the subject limb immediately after the incident; the testimony of the tree being dead prior to its failure and the negligence admitted by the arborist who inspected the subject tree prior to its failure, the following opinions were presented in rebuttal:

  1. As to the subject video taken almost immediately after the tragic event, the video started with a sequence following the subject limb on the bike path towards the blood stains on the asphalt bikeway. The eye witness said that the woman riding the bike, “dropped like a rock” the instant the limb hit her.  Yet in the video, every time the photographer took a stab from the limb to the bloodstains, the camera moved up and down.  There were 7 such noted up and down movements in the complete video.  A person’s normal gait is approximately two feet or so.  Seven steps times two feet would mean that the subject tree limb, weighing 300 pounds, had been moved approximately fourteen feet from the precise location the bloodstains were noted on the bike path.  Why would somebody drag a 300 pound object 15 feet from where it had landed after failing?  And why would they move the limb at all?  And, who had the strength to accomplish this feat?
  2. As to the tree being dead at the time the limb failed was concerned, a video had been admitted into evidence. The video was of the subject tree being cut down and shredded.  There was a two second period of time in which the video showed the subject tree going into the chipper.  Green leaves were everywhere on the subject tree in that video.  Demonstrating of course that the tree was not dead when it failed.
  3. As to the negligence of the arborist who must have ”missed the defect” during his periodical inspections of the property where the tree grew, it was noted in one of the photographs at the time the tree was removed, an elongated gash or crack high up in the main trunk of the tree. This crack or gash was consistent with a lightning strike that had hit the tree in the after situation of the limb failure.  That would explain why the open and obvious defect was “missed” during the arborist inspection of the property in which the tree grew.  The tree had been struck by lightning after the limb had failed; thus, the dead appearance to the casual observer.
  4. Further to these points comes a surveyor who spotted the subject tree on a survey map of the property and the exact spot where the woman was struck by the tree limb. The distance between the two was well over 100 feet.  Between the subject tree and the incident occurrence stood an extremely large tree of another species.  This would have meant that a 300 pound object would have to have flown 100 feet through the canopy of a tree larger than the subject tree before striking the woman.
  5. The “33% Rule” was not a rule at all. It was an observation made by a researcher after a hurricane went through a stand of pine trees - of a different species than the subject pine tree.
  6. The 1st responder noted in his accident report that. “Dead limbs were all over the place”. This statement cast serious doubts as to whether the subject limb was in fact the limb that hit the one.  This observation from the 1st responder also demonstrated that numerous limbs at fallen in a landscape which was not cared for.  However, the government entity who owned that property had already settled and was no longer in the suit.

This matter settled after my deposition.


Reliable Sources


International Society of Arboriculture

Through research, technology, and education, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) promotes the professional practice of arboriculture and fosters a greater worldwide awareness of the benefits of trees. This is our passion and serves as our mission statement.


Florida Chapter, International Society of Arboriculture

The INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF ARBORICULTURE is a professional organization dedicated to continuing education for arborists, to tree care research, and to serving tree care consumers around the world. The FLORIDA CHAPTER of the ISA shares this same dedication, with a further commitment to serving the needs particular to Florida's professional arborists and tree care consumers.


Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

"The Mission of UF/IFAS is to develop knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life."


Quality Analytical Laboratories, LLC

Our mission is to provide the very best analytical and technical data and service to companies, researchers, crop consultants, and growers throughout the world, while sustaining continuous growth. This commitment,  coupled with and extensive quality assurance program, well-trained staff and state-of-the-art instrumentation, will aid our customers in realizing their own enterprise mission.


American Society of Consulting Arborists

ASCA represents Consulting Arborists—the authoritative experts on trees, and whose objective, comprehensive viewpoint ensures the safety, health, and preservation of trees. Our members’ extensive level of knowledge and experience makes them highly sought after by consumers, professionals, and other arborists.


At the deepest end of the largest pool of knowledge regarding arboriculture and in particular valuations, lies the tree farm or plant nursery analysis. There is no other area of valuation regarding trees and plants more complicated with more knowledge required then the analysis and assessment of a tree farm or plant nursery.

In this matter, a partnership was in the process of being dissolved.  At the heart of the dissolution was the value of product.

The product was predictably found in varying stages of maturity, size and species.  From the smallest container possible to the largest field grown material, the approach to value was key in determining this success of the opinions being rendered before the court.

It is often been said that tree and plant valuations and assessments are both an art and a science.  But a few arborists or valuation experts can differentiate the definition of the two.  The art of tree and plant appraisals is the legal approach applied in the valuation.  The science is the knowledge of nursery operations and the plant species being grown.

To this point, the venerable expert across from me placed zero value on plants that were not yet mature.  His reasoning was that they had no value in the marketplace; therefore, they had no value to the owners.  But I knew of a nursery valuation case law that said otherwise.  The expert across from me also placed a value on a plant that was not yet quite ready for the marketplace at the next smallest containerized sized value in the marketplace.  But I also knew of another court case that differed with that expert’s opinion of value.

Despite approximately two hours of cross-examination of my approach to value regarding plants that had no value in the marketplace and plants that were not quite ready for the marketplace, the court ruling came down in favor of my approach to value.

Another matter was at the heart of my valuation of this particular nursery.  And that matter regarded the percent of species which were present in the before situation of dissolving the partnership. It is a situation that must be regarded in every nursery valuation.

I have nicknamed this approach to valuation, The Candy Store Phenomenon. This approach always works because it’s correct.  If the nursery were a candy store that was going to be taken in part but not in totality, as many candy bars can be taken is necessary to facilitate the legal end result.  However, one cannot take every brand name of candy bar from the store owner.  The store owner may have 1000 candy bars for sale.  400 of them can be taken from him for whatever reason (trespass, eminent domain, theft, bankruptcy, and cash flow –whatever).  But if an entire brand name of candy bar is taken from him than his product mix puts them out of business because a buyer will go to a candy store vendor that not only carries the brand of candy bar he wants but a multiplicity of other brand names desired.

This approach to valuation might well have been nicknamed, The Grocery Store Phenomenon.  If a grocery store loses all of its dairy products, a loyal customer is not going to go to two different grocery stores to purchase dairy products and everything else they need when it can be found under one roof.

The percentage of species population in a nursery must be considered in an analysis of that nursery and its viability in the after situation of impairment or impact.  As must the case law regarding plants that have absolutely no value in the marketplace at the time of valuation and plants that are almost ready for the marketplace but do not qualify for marketability at the time of valuation.

This explains to attorneys and owners the frustration of having to bear the costs of inventorying an entire nursery when only a portion of it may be negatively affected.

A nursery valuation must also take into account the knowledge of the numerous and varying costs which was required to get each plant into its container size at the time of valuation. As an example, what value should be placed on a species of plant which has just been stepped up from a 1 gallon container (valued at $2 each) to a 3 gallon container (valued at $7.50 each)?  It is obvious that the plant just planted into a 3 gallon container is not yet ready for the marketplace.   Now what value?  And what value is placed on a 1 gallon container that must be stepped up to a 3 gallon container but was not stepped up to a 3 gallon container?  What does it cost to fertilize a plant in a particular size container when broken into line item tables?  And what is the per plant cost to apply pesticides on acres of product?  Is there a difference in the bottom line accounting of a nursery if perlite is used in the growing media versus the use of vermiculite?

There is a multiplicity of knowledge required to appraise a tree farm or plant nursery.  But perhaps the most elusive target for most arborists is the necessary and prerequisite case law applied to past scenarios in nurseries and tree farms.  That is the art.  And in most situations, that’s where the secret sauce is kept.