“Who is doing this? And why?”

by Prince Of Petworth October 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm 15 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I live in Southwest on I St, near the waterfront metro. This morning, on the way to work, I found one of the older trees was cut down. When I got back, another tree was almost entirely down. (see attached photos)

Neither of these trees appeared unhealthy, and they were by two completely different residential buildings owned by different organizations. Who is doing this? And why?

I understand the common use of trimming to protect the power lines, but these seemed way more than that.”

  • say what

    You honestly can’t tell just by looking at the outside. Is there an orange dot sprayed on the trunk? that indicated that Urban Forestry has been out and investigated and determined the tree is diseased. They actually do a really good job and the idea is to cut the trees before the collapse or spread more disease. They will replant a new tree. You can contact Urban Forestry to ask about it.

    • Anon

      I once asked a tree removal person how they could tell a street tree needed to be cut down. He tried to show how it was tilted but I honestly couldn’t see what he was talking about. I think you have to develop an eye for it.

      • ah

        There are a host of reasons, so hard to say in this case.

        But agree that UFA does a good job. They also are not biased towards removal of trees – quite the opposite. They’re responsibility is a healthy, robust tree canopy and it’s a lot easier to have that by maintaining large trees than by cutting them down and replacing them with smaller ones.

        For this tree, look at the size of the tree box and the size of the tree. If this one weren’t cut down it could well show up on POP on top of a car in a few weeks – you don’t know, but it’s often the street trees with not enough room for roots to grow solidly that tip over in storms.

    • jonah

      Urban Forestry’s tree planting map can be found here, along with the type of tree: http://ddot.dc.gov/page/tree-planting-ddot-trees

      • GBinCH

        Cool! A few weeks ago they chopped down a tree in front of my building and apparently we’re getting an oak. That’ll be nice! :)

      • also anon

        This is really cool. Thanks for sharing!

  • elizml

    In the past couple of months, I had noticed a giant mushroom growing on the tree that was cut down yesterday on I Street. Please correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding is that usually occurs on dying or dead trees.

  • spookiness

    They could have been diseased, but perhaps not apparent to the casual witness. This won’t be a popular comment, but sometimes selective culling is a good idea. I’m not expert but these appear to have outgrown their planting area, so that’s probably not good.

    I lived in a close-in suburb where our street tree canopy was declining badly. Part of it had to do with the fact that most of the trees were all planted at the same time, when the subdivision was built. (I suspect this could be the case in SW). Then they all started dying en masse. While uniformity looks good, its a good idea to have a mix of different tree species and ages, so if there is a disease outbreak or even a bad storm, you don’t run the risk of losing everything at the same time, then dealing with a barren look while it takes 5-10 years for the young trees to grow out.

    • bruno

      This is the time of year they cut dead branches, dead trees.

    • armchairarchitect

      While I generally agree with your statement that it is good to have a mix of different tree species and ages, mixing species and ages along the same street causes its own set of issues. Casey Trees recommends using the same species along the same street, but varying the species block by block. I think a street can look barren when a haphazard approach is used. different growth rates and different light requirements result in some trees not reaching a full canopy when mixed with other species, which becomes even more apparent when a single large tree is removed that had been detrimentally affecting the growth pattern of adjacent trees. IMHO a using the same species block by block is results in something greater than the sum of its parts, while a mix of species is less. Maybe using the same species along the same street but not requiring them to be the same age is a good compromise?

  • sbc

    They’re street trees. Several of them had serious issues (large dead branches, for example). You can’t always tell by looking at a tree if it poses a hazard. If you google image search “tree crushes car dc” you’ll see lots of trees that looked pretty healthy until they fall down and then you can see how totally hollow they are on the inside. And if you google “killed by falling tree DC” you’ll see that just about every year someone is killed or very badly injured that way (I still remember the motorcyclist by Meridian Hill Park–I think she became paralyzed).

    I’ve talked with the Ward 6 folks from the Urban Forestry Administration (it’s part of DDOT) and have been impressed by how much they know and how well they balance keeping trees healthy with removing trees that could easily become a hazard. If you’re interested in learning more and helping add more trees in DC, maybe reach out to Casey Trees–they run a lot of good educational and service programs.

    • artemis

      This. I would much rather see the trees come down and lives saved.

  • Terry Lynch
  • Mickey’s BFF

    Same thing on K St NE between 3rd & 5th. Two of the trees were 3 to 4 ft in diameter. I will miss the shade they provided on our summer morning dog walks.

  • crin

    That last part of trunk would make a good 8-10 foot log that could be turned into a nice amount of lumber, possibly furniture grade. But DC will just send it to the dump and bury it which turns it into methane. Lumber would be better than a greenhouse gas.


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