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With care, broken boughs may yet survive

Hurricane Jeanne will likely be remembered in Tampa Bay for the damage it did to the region's trees.

The storm spun off gusts that whipped, bent, snapped and felled trees. Many were tangled in power lines, others saturated in water and a few landed on buildings and cars.

"We haven't had a significant storm in quite a while and a lot of trees have gotten quite large," said Jennifer Magavero, horticulture coordinator for the Largo parks department. "This has shown people how weak trees really are and it scares them. Many trees dropped large limbs."

Residents who want help in determining if any trees pose a hazard can turn to local governments. Some have their own arborists who will evaluate trees free for homeowners. In St. Petersburg, that's arborist Guntis Barenis.

"This is a city service. I'm willing to go to the property and help decide which are hazardous and which are not," Barenis said. "With a lot of people there's the fear factor and people should not be quick to make decisions on removal because of fear."

Large trees with substantial damage should probably be handled by a professional arborist, said Adrian Hunsberger, a horticulture extension agent with the University of Florida in Miami-Dade County. Trees that are dead or split down the middle need to be removed, she said.

"If you hire a certified arborist, make sure they are licensed and have insurance," Hunsberger said. "Avoid hiring people going around in a pickup truck with a chainsaw. There can be severe liability with an accident, as well as them not knowing how to take care of trees."

Trees that typically fare better in hurricanes include palms, live oaks, dogwoods and magnolias. Laurel oaks, maples, pecans and sweetgum trees don't do as well. Ficus are one of the least hardy trees because they grow fast and develop large canopys that do not weather storms well.

Some trees that have suffered damage can be salvaged. For example, trees that have lost a major limb can remain if they are pruned correctly back to the nearest joint so the tree heals.

"Don't leave a stub out there," said Robert Funari, an arborist with the Pinellas County parks department. "Cut it back to a good branch connection. New growth will come off the branch."

Some trees that are leaning can be saved as long as the tree's root system is still intact. The tree should be pulled back upright, tied to a stake and watered frequently as if it were recently planted.

"But if part of its root system has been pulled out of the ground, a lot of times it's going to die because there's too much root damage," Hunsberger said.

Jenn Miler, who lives on the edge of Allendale in St. Petersburg, experienced this. A 25-foot ficus next to her driveway was uprooted in a storm a few years ago. On Sunday, she saw it bend to the ground, its leaves touching her car. Miler moved the vehicle and within two hours, the tree had fallen.

Miler, 35, always has been sentimental about trees. "But maybe I'll put in some type of carport," she said Monday.

Rescuing the trees

Trees have really taken a beating this hurricane season. Here are some repairs you can make yourself.

Fallen trees

Small trees that blew over can be secured in an upright position. Mediumage and mature trees on the ground have severe root breakage and in most cases should not be replanted.

1. Protect the trunk from damage when pulling it up.

2. Stake the tree upright. Use lumber that is strong enough to hold the tree erect. Strapping secures the vertical lumber to the trunk, and the stakes are nailed to that. Stakes should be removed within about a year when roots can support the tree.

3. Once the soil begins to dry after the storm, irrigate roots regularly until new roots are wellestablished.

Broken or cracked branches

A cracked branch should be removed back to the collar if the storm stripped off less than about 40 percent of the foliage. If more than 40 percent was removed, or if all the foliage was pulled from the same side of the tree, wait until next year to remove the branch. This allows it to contribute to the tree's recovery by supplying sugars from photosynthesis.

A broken branch should be removed by carefully cutting through the portion of the branch still attached. Hold the branch weight so the bark does not peel down the remaining stem. No other action is needed.

How to hire an arborist

Sometimes the needed repairs are too much for the homeowner. Arborists make a career of caring for trees. Here are several tips for choosing one:

+ Have more than one arborist look at the job, and get a written bid specifying work to be done. Ask for and check local references.

+ Determine if the arborist is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture or the National Arborist Association. Membership does not guarantee quality, but it could be a sign of a more professional arborist.

+ Ask for certification of personal and property liability insurance and worker's compensation. Then phone the insurance company to make certain the policy is current.

+ Ask to see proper state and county licenses. Beware of scam artists or fly-by-night operations.

+ Low price is a poor gauge of a quality arborist. Often, the better ones are more expensive because of more specialized equipment, more professional help and insurance costs.

Smaller trees (under 25 ft. tall)

Stake 18" in ground

Wire Covered with hose to protect tree

Larger trees

Vertical 2x4's Secured by metal straps

Stakes Nailed to vertical boards

Branch collar

Branch bark ridge

SOURCE: Dr. Ed Gilman, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Time graphic _ STEVE MADDEN