If a tree falls in Oak Bay, will anybody hear it?
On June 29 a large Garry oak fell due to rot and decay on St. Patrick Street and people did hear it. The tree, estimated to be about 150 years old, may have lived longer if people knew more about how to care for trees.
Oak Bay municipal arborist Chris Paul offers an explanation and some advice: “Trees are living things that go through their cycle of life from infancy to old age, much like people. Some won’t last as long as others due to neglect, disease or accidents.”
The difference is trees don’t heal. “When a branch is cut off a tree, it has to grow new wood over the cut, starting at the sides and growing into the centre. On large cuts, this can take a long time, leaving the exposed wood open to decay pathogens.”
This was the case for the large oak on St. Patrick, he said. “It failed at an old cut where decay got into the tree and travelled down the trunk before the wound closed over. This is why our (tree protection) bylaw regulates the size of cuts tree owners are allowed to make on protected trees.”
Trees on Oak Bay boulevards are inspected by parks crews regularly to check whether pruning is needed. They evaluate the condition of the tree and inspect any old wounds for decay. The schedule sees crews get to each neighbourhood or block every five to seven years.
Trees on private property, however, are the responsibility of landowners. For large older trees, Paul suggests requesting a visit from a certified arborist.
“While removing deadwood and crossing branches, they can have a look at the whole tree and see if there are any parts that might need further attention. Certified arborists will also recognize signs of decay or pest attacks and will be able to recommend a course of action.”
For trees needing attention on boulevards, residents can call the parks department (250-592-7275) to come have a look. A staffer will carry out any necessary pruning, or conduct a further evaluation to determine if it needs to be removed.
For private trees protected under Oak Bay’s tree bylaw, owners are required to apply for a permit to carry out pruning recommendations made by an arborist.
Another way residents can help is by watering.
“Many trees we grow in Victoria require more water throughout the summer than we receive in rainfall,” Paul said. “This means they’ll need regular deep watering to keep them healthy so they can fight off disease and pest attacks. Young trees in particular will benefit from regular watering until they have developed a deep root system.”
Oak Bay’s arborists plant, water and remove public trees and have approximately 10,000 public trees in their care. They water about 300 young trees regularly and plant about 100 new ones each fall.