Hello, I have a very tall (probably 70-90 ft) tulip poplar in my backyard...

Asked May 7, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

Hello, I have a very tall (probably 70-90 ft) tulip poplar in my backyard that has rot near the base of the trunk from where branches were either removed or fell off. I am able to chip away at the rot and can see ants, beetles, and worms in there. I've had a couple of arborists from tree companies out at my house and have gotten differing opinions. One said that the tree should be removed since there is compromise near the trunk. Another said that poplars typically aren't at risk for uprooting and are more often associated with falling branches so he wasn't that concerned about the rot near the base of the trunk. I am enclosing a few pictures. Your professional opinion and any guidance on the nature of poplars and the risk of a tree uprooting from the rot near the base would be much appreciated.

Fairfax County Virginia

1 Response

Dear Person,

Thank you for seeking additional input to your situation and I can understand your concern and confusion. Assessing trees for risk/hazard is difficult and has mostly been subjective and thus prone to varying opinions.

The only objective, industry approved/agreed method of assessing tree risk method is called "Tree Risk Assessment Qualification" (TRAQ) and is administered by the International Society of Arboriculture as a certification. I would recommend looking for a TRAQ certified Arborist in Fairfax (there are plenty in that area) if you would like to get an absolutely unbiased and objective assesment of your tree.

Short of that, the base of this tree is obviously not in good shape and it appears from your description and the picture that there are one or more targets (potential people or structures or other goods that could be damaged by the falling tree).

Your tree is not so much in danger of uprooting but of simply failing at the base due to the rot. I can see from the picture (only one is included with the message) that there are at least two significant rot areas. This kind of rot is not going to get better and will likely increase. Furthermore, this kind of rot (the location and nature of it) certainly increases the risk of failure.

The worms, bugs and such you see in the rotted area are simply decomposers and not harming the tree... just enjoying the dead wood and environment.

I hope this helps.