DNR Expert Cautions People About ‘Zombie Tree’ Season

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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  Zombies are not something you typically associate with the winter season. But local arborists want zombie trees to be on everyone’s mind before more snow comes our way.

“Zombie trees are kind of a unique term, it basically means that a tree like this burr oak right here is starting to decay on the inside and right now that wouldn’t be extremely obvious, you might have decay which would be rotten and the inside would be rotten but the tree could be completely healthy,” DNR Forest Health Program Leader Tivon Feeley said.

On a zombie tree, you will notice wilting leaves and dying and decaying branches. These can be great risks during the winter months as snow falls on the weak branches, causing them to snap and fall. Depending on the size of the branch that could cause serious damage to a car, home or even a person. That’s why arborists recommend pruning your tree now while there are no leaves blocking your view and before there is a lot of snow. You can prune trees yourself, but it depends on the tree.

“If you’re working with a smaller crab apple like we have in the background behind us, absolutely you can prune it yourself, the risk in that tree is pretty low, if it’s going to pop out of the ground it’s probably not going to cause a lot of damage if you’re looking at a big burr oak tree or other oak tree like this one it’s a little bit more difficult to get all the way to the top of the canopy, you’re going to need a bucket truck, this is not something a typical homeowner would do, I would get an export to come in,” Feeley said.

You can find a certified arborist by using the International Society of Arboriculture’s website.

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