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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Karhu

My tree is leaning. Should I be worried about it falling over?

Updated: Aug 6

Trees with too much competition for space will grow towards the available sunlight. This phenomenon weirdly shapes trees. Oak, madrone, and other hardwood species are more susceptible to horizontal growth. Comparably, softwood such as cedar, pine, and spruce grow straight. Severe-leaning softwood trees can be more hazardous than hardwood due to fiber density and strength.

Another common reason for a tree leaning is consistent wind exposure. Commonly on ridges, along exposed hillsides, and still found in typical backyards or parking lots.

Sometimes leaning is caused by other fallen trees landing on them in the past. A typical example: the bottom 10-20’ leaning followed by the tree self-correcting into a straight vertical direction above the leaning section.

A decaying or damaged root zone can cause trees to lean and uproot, even during fair weather.

The removal process of an uprooting tree is dangerous. The risk multiplies the longer the situation is left untouched. Time is really of the essence for the protection of your property and the safety of your tree care workers.

Leaning trees with good structure and no significant defects can be pruned to mitigate risk. Reducing end weight and leveraging force makes a big difference for trees leaning towards occupied spaces.

The applied force experienced during wind events, snow storms, heavy foliage, and fruit load increases the risks of tree failure.

Healthy trees can add strength to tolerate the forces of a leaning stem or branch. Arborists call this reaction wood. Although, if the leverage is too much for the tree to handle, it will fail.

A certified arborist is qualified to identify structural defects and recommend the correct course of action.

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