Windstorm Damage of May 20, 2001
Disease Makes Trees More Vulnerable to High Winds

Example 7: Carolina Poplar in Residential Yard #2

When the roots were examined more closely, it was obvious why they failed. Notice the dark shading in the roots at the middle of the photo below. The interior root tissue should be a bright yellowish white, and should be firm to the touch. Instead, these were a dull gray in color, and soft and spongy to the touch. The darkened root tissue had a very strong and foul odor, caused by a fungus that had attacked the heartwood of all the major roots of the tree.

This fungus is a major cause of root and trunk heart-rot in this locale. It gets a foothold in a tree that has been stressed. The soil here was waterlogged, causing the tree to have "wet feet". This condition is a common stressor of many botanicals and was probably a major contributor to the fungus infection. The soil profile around a tree should allow the area around the base of the trunk to drain well, so that the soil at this location is allowed to dry out between watering events. Poorly drained, water-logged soil promotes fungi and other pathogens. It appears that this tree was planted in a cavity that was unable to drain. Before a new tree is planted here, a percolation test should be performed. A resultant diagnosis of poor drainage would rule this site out for future tree plantings, absent extensive soil reconstruction (homeowner insurance may pay some or all of the expenses involved).

Bugsinthenews ... Trees in Central Texas


Like Example 6, this Carolina Poplar had grown impressively tall. Unfortunately, it was also close to the house, and the house was in the way when it fell.

The photo below shows that the roots of this tree failed to provide it a good foundation. Ordinarily, the roots, which spread out in all directions and generally extend to the drip line of the tree at minimum, will be strong enough to hold the tree upright even in a strong windstorm. The trunk of the tree should snap long before the roots give way. But this tree fell over without much of a fight.

When the soil at the base of the tree was examined, the white fruiting body of the fungus could be seen in abundance, as shown in the photo below..