Can this tree be saved?

Asked April 10, 2013, 5:06 PM EDT

We are currently undergoing a street improvement project (new sidewalk, curb, new paving, center swale, etc) and our huge sycamore tree may be a victim. The site has been excavated 2-3 feet down and we have lost about 15 feet of previously undisturbed grass, sidewalk and gravel on one side of the tree. It is 18 feet from the foundation of the house. The contractors say the tree will stay, but we are wondering if it is realistic to expect this specimen to survive. I have included images to show the approximate size (9 ft trunk circumference, 50 ft high) and the root damage already inflicted. We are concerned about the survivability of the tree, and the possibility that leaving it will ruin the future sidewalk that will be nearly butted up against the trunk. It would be easier to take it out now than later, but we hate to lose this tree which is located on the south exposure of our home, providing us with a lot of shade during our intensely hot summers. Thanks for your help. I have included three images, one shows previous to excavation.

Malheur County Oregon

1 Response


Considering that the majority of the root system of the tree is in the top 18" or so of soil, the construction activity has removed at least 1/4 of the root system and probably far more. The tree, or parts of it, may well survive, but what concerns me is the possibility that because the structural anchoring roots are lost on an entire side, that they have created a hazard tree. If the tree fails, because of where the roots were removed it may well fall towards the house. I would strongly suggest you get an opinion on this tree from a certified arborist. You can find information on hiring an arborist at the PNW International Society of Arboriculture site,

Ps as a small favor, would it be possible to email the pictures you attached to an email to me at I teach plant problem diagnosis and though it is unfortunate, these photos are very good examples of what happens to large specimen trees during construction sometimes. In exchange if you have other questions, I'd be pleased to help you. Thank you.