Does This Hurt the Tree?

From Adams Morgan. I was intrigued by the piece but was disappointed to see it drilled directly into the tree. Or am I being too sensitive – is this bad for the tree at all? Do you like the piece (despite the graffiti?)

27 Comment

  • Yes, it’s terrible for the tree. Please call DDOT Urban Forestry and report the exact location. They may be able to minimize the damage.

  • Uhhhh, not really that bad for the tree. It will be fine on its own. Trees grow around fences, grates, etc. a couple of screws are not going to make a difference.

    • You’ve probably seen trees growing around fences survive because they are in a large lawn with plenty of water and nutrients to help it survive the damage.

      If a tree in a sidewalk grows around the tree grate, though, it is soon dead. It’s not about the metal, it’s about the context.

      And, Eric, this is not directed to you necessarily but to any non-tree-professionals commenting on this thread saying “I’ve seen a tree live, it’s fine” – I’ve seen stories of people surviving with bullets and metal in their head or bodies for years, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fine for people to be shot or impaled. Ok, that’s extreme, but consider that a piercing here or there on a person won’t kill them if done by a professional, but try doing it yourself and see if it gets infected. And if you’re already sick or immune comprimised, then there is a chance that infection could be fatal. Think about trees the same way. Is a nail _definitely_ going to kill the tree? No. And becuase I’ve seen a tree survive before, does that make it okay? No.

  • Who do I believe, Brain or Eric?!?!?!

  • It doesn’t hurt a tree of that size. In fact, a few nails can often help a tree in soil with low ferrous content. Only problem is that screws can tear up a chainsaw blade when the time comes to take down the tree.

  • A few are fine. No worries. If it carries on it may be a problem.

  • Lester’s got it. Lots of trees (ie Bradford Pears and Arborvitaes) are often bolted together because of their tendency to split. This doesn’t hurt the tree, but good lord it’ll do some work on a chain.

  • It is bad for the tree because it sets a precedent. If people see things like that, they’ll assume it’s OK to do so elsewhere and it’ll spread.

  • If it’s so bothersome, why not just take it down? You only need a screwdriver.

  • It’s not drilled into the tree, it’s screwed into the tree.

  • This is illegal and damaging. Please report the location to DDOT Urban Forestry via 311.

    While damage will be isolated (a wound never heals since trees do not have immune systems), it becomes harder for the tree to isolate and maintain effective flow of nutrients with each invasion. More importantly, any penetration through the outer bark provides access for insects and disease. Arborists are trained to use cabling in only severely weakened or dangerous circumstances as a last-ditch effort to prevent catastrophic failure for the tree.

    • I’ve seen a lot of tree wounds heal. My buddy chainsawed 1/3rd of the way thru a locus tree and it healed up just fine within 6 months. It’s one screw. Get over it you hippies.

      • See, here again is the fallacy of saying “one time, in a context and species completely unrelated to this one, I saw a good result, therefore it’s all good.” Generally, Locust trees are very fast growing, short lived successional species – meaning they’ll grow anywhere there’s an open patch of dirt (and last only 15 years anyway). Now, I don’t know the circumstances of the example you state, but if your buddy damaged one growing in an open or natural area, then sure, it had a good chance of healing the wound in the trunk, but very likely the canopy growth and other aspects of the tree were affected in ways that you would notice if it were a solitary tree planted in a sidewalk. Even so, we don’t use Locusts as urban street trees, and the growing environment for urban street trees is much more stressful for a tree, making it much more succeptible to damage. Really, it all depends on the context, species, and age of the tree. Weed wackers routinley kill trees in urban environments – you don’t need a chainsaw to do it.

      • I am not a hippie. I am a certified arborist and my point was that a tree never heals like a mammal does – it isolates and covers a wound as best it can; the wound from the chainsaw you mention is still there if you look inside, interrupting the flow of nutrients through the xylem and phloem. Trees are very resilient, but each wound (including naturally made ones) makes them more vulnerable to disease and infestation. It’s simply bad policy to support this behavior even if there is no obvious damage to the layperson’s eye.

  • plus, the “art” is ugly.

  • Speaking as a professional Landscape Architect, the danger of a nail is not from the nail itself, but the opening of a wound that could allow insects or disease into the tree. The living, growing part of a tree trunk is a thin layer called “cambium” that lies just underneath the bark. (The rest of the inside of the trunk is just dead cells that act as water transport). If you damage the cambium -by nail, weed whacker, or peeling off the bark- then you damage the tree.

    Healthy trees can overcome a nail or two and resist disease. However urban trees are rarely healthy trees, and are generally very stressed. So the short answer is DO NOT nail things into trees in your neighborhoods.

  • There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees…

  • Ay, ay, ca fait mal! Oh la la, lalalala. Quel-qu’un, vite: aidez-moi! C’est quoi ce truc?

    En tout cas, JE suis beaucoup plus beau cet “art.”

  • I am not a tree professional exactly, but I am a successful bonsai artist and I believe that gives me authority on the subject of what trees can tolerate from a health perspective–I spend hours every week drilling into trees, splitting their trunks in half, binding them in wire, contorting their branches and conducting other proceedures that you would not believe a tree could survive. I can tell you that a nail or screw in a tree of this size is such a minor insult that even a tree not in its prime would never even notice. That being said, people absolutely should not do this kind of thing because it is ugly and disrespectful both to your neighbors and to the tree itself.

  • The city is out of money. Please don’t bother UFA with this. Unscrew it yourself. The tree will be fine, either way.

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