Coppiced Cedar tree

Asked April 2, 2017, 7:33 PM EDT

I've a tall, very old coppiced cedar tree that looks rather puny with its less than vibrant greenery and small cones. 3 different arborists have given me 3 different assessments as to what to do with the tree. One -- who also specializes in large tree removal -- said to cut it down as it will eventually rot, split, and possibly fall onto my house. Another said it was dying but he could treat it with special fertilizers, soil treatment, etc. for $2500 over 18-24 months, and the health of the tree would improve significantly. The 3rd arborist said while it's not the most robust cedar tree, it wasn't dying or it isn't necessarily unhealthy. He suggested adding fertilizer every year and just keeping an eye on it. I've been doing the latter, but when we have severe wind storms, I do worry about the tree coming down. I've lived in my home with this tree in the corner of my yard for 10 years and wonder what you might suggest. Thank you.

Clackamas County Oregon

3 Responses

It is pretty difficult to make a diagnosis without seeing the tree, but I can provide you with some general observations. Are you concerned with the health of the tree, or the structure of the tree? If the tree is unhealthy, that is one thing. But if it is structurally weak, that's another matter entirely. For example, a tree can be healthy but have very poor branch structure that makes it predisposed to break apart in a storm. No amount of fertilizer or soil improvement will correct that. You say the tree has been "coppiced". Are you certain of that? Coppicing is a fairly specific pruning method that is rarely practiced in the PNW. Topping, on the other hand, is another matter. Many trees have been topped, an improper treatment that causes the tree to develop a structurally unsound form. So while the second arborist may have some ideas to help the health of the tree, none of those will improve the safety of it if it is structurally failing. However a healthy tree is always better than an unhealthy one. But you have to ask yourself if it is worth investing in making it more healthy if its a poorly formed tree in the first place.

I'd be inclined to agree with the first arborist that the tree will eventually fail if it has been topped many times in the past. On the other hand, if there has been some corrective pruning done, that could mitigate some of the problem. However, if there are no signs of imminent failure as the third arborist suggests, then you could just try to keep it on as long as it doesn't become too much of a risk for you.

I'm sorry this probably isn't a definitive answer for you, but perhaps I've given you some more information that will help you make the decision.

Hello, Mr. Ries -- thank you for your response. I was traveling for the past week, but appreciate your timely response. I probably used "coppiced" incorrectly; one of the arborists mentioned the term during his assessment, and I had written it down, thinking "coppice" described the forked trunk of my cedar tree. I'm enclosing a photo of the tree which has not been topped, trimmed or cut to my knowledge. Not sure if you can see that it's not very robust or full, and the color of the needles is a yellowish green vs. a bright deeper green one associates with cedar trees. However, new needles and cones have grown on this tree over the 10 years under my ownership. Would you still advise removal, based upon the photo? Much thanks in advance for your assistance. Joi

well this photo changes my response considerably. At a distance, it does not appear from the photo that there are serious structural issues at this point, so you're more likely dealing with a stress/health issue. Now I'm finding myself more in line with your third arborist. Do everything you can to keep the tree healthy. A fertilizer may help, but every year is a bit of overkill. Shoot for every other year. Use a 2-1-1 ratio mix, NOT a lawn fertilizer. Make sure the tree is mulched and not subject to compaction issues. Above all, keep an eye on it for change. Remember that all conifers shed their leaves over a 2-3 year cycle to do dead foliage on the ground isn't a concern. Hopefully you'll be able to get it back to better health.