Branching Out
By Dave Meadows
Pioneer Columnist

Have you ever wondered why trees grow or are located in areas that just don’t make sense? You might tell yourself, “Who planted a tree there?” Well, nature can be the most prolific ‘moron’ we know. 

While planting and maintaining trees is my dream job, dealing with what I like to call “weed trees” is not, and I am not referring to Cannabis trees! These weed trees are adapted, aggressive and difficult to remove. Nobody planted them; they just found the right location to seed themselves, and nobody knew they were there until it was too late! 

These trees can cause serious damage to buildings, roads, structures, utility lines, residential landscapes and public spaces. I am referring to the “usual suspects” such as Manitoba Maples, Siberian Elms, Russian Olives, as well as Poplars, Willows, Junipers and wild Roses. And oh, let’s not forget about our native evergreen tree, the interior Douglas Fir, which can also be a “nuisance” sometimes. 

Where can we usually find these vegetative outlaws? Under a proverbial rock is a good place to start. However, along a cool, wet, north side of a fence, particularly chain-linked fence, or foundation in your backyard, is more likely. In a ditch or right of way. Commercial lots or business. You will find them in open fields, hillsides, highways, lake shorelines. Any place you usually find unmaintained areas along with their common companions, invasive weed species! 

Some weed trees find suitable sites to seed themselves. Like the single, solitary, Siberian elm on the west side of the Athalmer bridge, visible upon entering and leaving town. 

Contrary to the numerous other Siberian elms situated in parking lots and buildings, blocking vehicle sightlines along major roads in town. 

These trees have a prolific ‘bad’ habit of suckering profusely when cut. So, mid-summer or dormant season removal of an undesirable Manitoba Maple or Willow can result in a multi-stemmed bush, followed by a multi-stemmed tree the following season. Due to this suckering habit, improperly timed pruning or removal can result in the weed tree being much larger and more vigorous than the original version. 

The costs associated with tree interference with infrastructure are significant. Trees improperly located may block road signs, leading to vehicle accidents. Improperly located trees can also block business signs, leading to decreased visibility of a store or children playing nearby—sidewalks and street repairs, from trees growing or planted in areas too small for proper root expansion. Sewer lines can be compromised due to large specimen tree roots’ creeping’ into cracks in pipes. Tree-initiated power outages, fire from trees falling on a power line, and revenue loss during the power outage caused by inappropriate or wild trees. The list goes on. 

The district of Invermere recognizes the need for proper tree maintenance, care and risk assessment. Private residents can also make a huge difference by identifying unwanted or unplanted trees in their yards also. Adequate removal of these ‘weed’ trees will go a long way to improve safety, lower infrastructure costs and curtail pests and diseases within the Urban Forest community.