When Should You Call A Local Tree Surgeon?

There are times when we all need to call in the professionals. When a water pipe bursts or the tiles blow off the roof we grab the phone and dial the local plumber or roofer to repair the damage, but when it comes to trees, an emergency call-out may already be too late. At the planning stages of new development, the services of consultants from many professional fields are utilised, but arboriculturalists are frequently excluded. So when is the right time to call in the professionals and who will be able to give the advice that is sought?

Consultant Arborist LeedsWithin the arboricultural sector, it may be simplest to separate professionals into Consulting Arboriculturalists and Professional Arborists. The latter would be responsible for carrying out ‘tree-surgery’, but this may be an over-simplification as many arborists would be qualified consultants and possibly experts in certain fields. Each has an essential role to play in maintaining the health and safety of our tree population and more often than not work together to achieve this end.

It would be my advice to anyone requiring legal advice or detailed tree-inspection to utilise the services of a qualified consultant or registered consulting arborist. They will be able to carry out visual, internal and even cellular examinations of trees in a systematic and quantitative manner with a range of decay detection techniques and devices. Many consultants will also be happy to provide sound, expert advice on almost anything tree-related. It may well be on the advice of a consultant that you choose to engage the services of a professional arborist, whose role will be to carry out the tree-works recommended within a tree-survey for instance.

In many cases, the services of a consultant may not be required. If a tree must be removed or a clear decision has been made on the nature of tree work to be carried out, then the services of a professional arborist will suffice. During periods of bad weather, it is often the emergency services of contractors that are needed more than anything else.

Obvious, potential hazards alert the concerns of anyone who owns or lives in the vicinity of trees, but some signs are not so noticeable to the untrained eye. The following list contains some of the common tree defects and risky situations to look out for and will hopefully help to avoid DIY injuries and weighty insurance claims. The simplest advice is if in doubt, call a professional.

When you might want to call a professional local tree surgeon.

Cracks Developing In The Soil

If you see cracks developing in the soil around the roots of your trees or the roots lifting out of the ground, maybe more noticeable in high winds, then this could indicate an unstable root system. Recent soil disturbance in the area around the tree could be to blame. Always protect the rooting area to at least the crown spread (dripline) and further if possible.

Trees With Persistent Water Logging In The Dripline

If there are areas of persistent water-logging within the dripline then immediate advice should be taken to prevent any long term damage to the roots of the tree which could cause stability problems.

Fungal Fruiting Bodies

Fungal fruiting bodies such as brackets growing out of the stem or the soil adjacent to your tree, branches fallen from the tree or old pruning wounds. Some fungi have very obvious and large, perennial fruiting bodies attached to the host tree but some of the more dangerous pathogens may not appear to be anything serious. Kreztchmeria deusta, for example, appears in one form as a black crusty coating at the base of Beech, Sycamore and Horse Chestnut and can easily be confused with a paint or tarmac splatter.

Open Cavities Within The Tree

If you notice any open cavities, water-filled holes or cracks developing in the bark of stems and limbs of your tree then you should have them inspected. These defects can often appear to be unchanged for many years but should be regularly inspected to assess the extent and rate of possible decay.

Areas Of Rapid Swelling

Any areas of rapid swelling which causes the bark to ripple or flake off can happen over a number of months or even years but usually, you will be able to notice that the bark in these areas has a different pattern from the normal bark. Seeing bulges, bumps and lumps can often indicate areas where the tree is starting to compensate for structural weaknesses or even more serious underlying problems.

Anything On The Tree That Looks Like It Could Cause Damage

If you notice anything on your tree that looks like it may cause damage to your property or adjacent property, pedestrians or vehicles, such as broken, hanging and dead branches.

Dead Trees

I have heard of several instances of dead trees being left for many years in the belief that they may come back to life. This is highly unlikely! Trees may die at the beginning of autumn and already be quite dangerous before it is noticed that they have not come into leaf in the spring. Dry branches and areas of missing bark in the crown may indicate that the tree has died when lack of foliage is not an obvious sign.

Sticky Or Unusual Exudations From The Trees Stem

Sticky or unusual exudations from the stem of your tree may indicate pathogenic infection or areas of necrosis under the bark. In recent months, areas of ‘bleeding’ have been noticed on Horse Chestnut trees all over Europe. In the majority of cases, this is the result of the tree being attacked by a specific form of canker which causes the pathogen Pseudomonas syringae.

Tight Or ‘V’-shaped Joins Between Two Co-dominant Stems

Tight or ‘V’-shaped joins between two co-dominant stems or between stems and limbs can be weak due to the growth of bark within the joint or it can form a point of compression. Two co-dominant stems can eventually push each other apart, leading to the collapse of one of the stems.

Over Hanging Trees

If your trees are in contact with telephone or electricity wires in addition to the tree surgeon you also may need to call your local Distribution Network Operator if there is a risk of electrocution. Professional advice must be sought as soon as possible if trees are in contact with electricity wires as the moist, inner parts of the timber will conduct electricity.

Incorrect Or Over Pruning In The Past

Tree Surgeon Leeds
Heavy, vertical re-growth of branches can very rapidly pose an increased risk to nearby property due to weak attachment and decay at the growth point. ‘Topping’ of trees is a non-professional technique with serious physiological consequences, such as tree death and an increased risk of fungal infection. There are alternative techniques to ‘Topping’, which all professional arborists should be able to carry out.

Cats Stuck In Your Tree

No need to tie up the valuable services of firemen, call an arborist!


This list is not exhaustive as trees are as unique as each of us. Many trees live out to full maturity and full size without ever posing a hazard to property or person, but this requires a combination of good advice and maintenance from the beginning. Seeking the advice of a professional on the species of tree to plant can save a great deal of expense in the future and a little formative pruning can avoid more costly remedial tree-surgery as the specimens mature.

As the tree populations of our modern towns continue to get younger and smaller, it is clear to see the real cost of not seeking professional advice on trees. Magnificent, majestic species are being replaced with ‘safer’ species and many of the remaining veterans are scalped into something barely resembling a tree. Much of this is reactive, not proactive tree management and is often carried out without the advice of professionals.

Mature trees and people can exist together. This is proved in many towns and cities throughout Europe, but it requires the collective knowledge of professional arborists, arboriculturalists and a willingness of the general public to engage their services.

Always contact a professional if you seek good, transparent advice on your trees and remember to keep an eye out for the biggest hazard to your trees – ‘Cowboy Contractors’!