Smart tree attachments – How to carry out tree attachments the right way.
I must make a confession about the motivation for this Blog post. In part we help tree owners and the trees in situations where items need to be attached to trees.
However, another factor is so that as an Arborist I no longer must deal with situations where less than ideal methods have been used for decorating trees.
There is a quite unique emotion that all Arborists share when you hear a “tink” noise as you are cutting through a piece of wood and you know instantly that you have just hit metal.
The time it takes to recover from the situation is directly proportional to the amount of time it will now take you to re-sharpen your chainsaw.
This Blog post is to help this situation be a thing of the past.
In my years as an Arborist I have seen all manner of items attached to trees.
Some of the most memorable have been when I found a garden hoe inside a Yew tree in England or another occasion when I had to climb a tree that had more than a hundred pairs of trainers/sneakers hanging from it.
I also once found a car tire up a tree. Obviously, these situations are not the norm, but it is quite common for us to come across lights, swings, flying foxes, climbing plants and tree houses.
I have witnessed different of methods used to attach these articles to trees with varying results.
Rather than give specific instructions on how to attach certain items, I thought a more useful approach would be to provide principles or guidelines that can be adapted to your situation.
So here they are:
- Avoid metal where possible – metal fixings generally must be hammered or screwed into the tree which breaches its defenses. Over time the tree grows around them and they are absorbed into the wood making nasty surprises later down the track. Also, metal straps or bands to not allow for expansion.
- Use non-invasive methods – puncture wounds through the bark can be entry points for infection. Lots of small holes from nails along a trunk or branch can badly affect the tree causing decay. Always aim to keep the tree’s defenses intact.
- Protect the tree against abrasion – using padding between straps or ropes will help to protect the bark which is the tree’s natural defense against invasion. It also protects the strap or rope from the tree.
- Use materials that can be adjusted or can grow with the tree – as tree limbs or trunks grow they may get constricted by items tied around them. Allow for adjustment or expansion in the design by having straps with adjustable buckles for swings or using stretchy webbing for climbing plants.
- If possible attach the item to something else – for example using up-lights that are fixed to the ground or having a tree house that has its own piles.
- Make sure the tree is suitable – the tree needs to be strong enough and healthy enough to endure what you are attaching to it. Have a good look at the tree first to assess its health and condition and if you are in doubt ask an Arborist for advice.
- Check for damage/wear – have a look every 6 months to see if the tree is being damaged by or is causing damage to the installation.
The advice given above relates to attaching relatively lightweight items to trees for homeowners.
There is a whole industry developed around building large structures in trees and in these cases, they break many of the guidelines I have given above.
The codes of practice and methods they have developed have come after doing a lot of research and experiments with fixing systems.
There is an interesting article you can read about it here
For the homeowner, I would still advise using non-invasive methods as I detailed above.
The methods used by the professionals have been tested over a long period of time, are subject to regular inspections once fitted and are designed for supporting large loads.
Check out all our “How To Provide Tree Maintenance Series” instructional guides. These arborist guides are aimed for tree owners who are keen to get their hands dirty.
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Rossy and the Team.
Rossy | 021 508 806 | treecareauckland.co.nz