Professional Arborists vs. The Other Kind

November-December 2011

Eight years previous a landscaper and his arborist friend had planted the trees. Now sick trees stood next to healthy specimens of the same species. After examining trees on the first property, it was clear more was going on than just spider mites. The worst tree had lost most of its needles and revealed the answer. The root-crown/trunk-flare interface did not look right and scraping away the mulch revealed that the plastic strings from the ball and burlap had never been cut. The trees were literally being strangled.

Further examination of the two properties showed that every tree planted by the landscaper had intact strings and many were girdling the trees. Also noted were trees planted too deep, girdling roots, and mounding of mulch around the stem. Virtually every single tree (and there was at least 60 between the two properties) had issues originating from improper planting.

At the second property, I was informed that an arborist had visited the previous year. The arborist did no soil or tissue test, did not examine for spider mites, and made no diagnosis of the problem. What the arborist did offer was an easy answer to a yellow problem, fertilizer. Unfortunately, fertilizer only exacerbates the problem of sucking insects and mites; dormant oil or insecticidal soaps would have been the first step, discovering the girdling strings would have been the best answer.

What went wrong? An arborist had helped plant the trees and another arborist had been called to look at the yellowed trees. I suggest that both arborists were not professional arborists at all, but rather using the title for financial gain. If a medical doctor had acted in a similar manner he would have been charged with malpractice and sued. What will happen to these arborists? Most likely nothing as the property owners simply called in arborist #3, me.

This situation points out the need for you to educate your clients, the importance of professional ethics, and the realization that using the word arborist does not make you an arborist. I’m wondering if the first two were certified… 

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