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Published on: Apr. 17, 2012

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Trees can be stressed by city life just like us. Cars, pollution, home improvement projects that take too long, summer heat and other factors cause urban trees to live significantly shorter lives than trees growing in natural settings.

Urban tree stress affects trees in your community parking lots, streets, parks, your home and anywhere city conditions cause less than desirable factors for tree health and safety.

Unlike an insect infestation or vascular disease that can be managed with a single treatment option, urban tree stress almost always requires a comprehensive approach.

Knowing what to look for, and the right questions to ask, will help you gather the information that a Department of Conservation expert or your local private arborist needs to understand and help your tree.

How Stress Hurts Trees

Trees, like all living things, have adapted to thrive in certain conditions. They prefer a specific soil type, nutrients, space, moisture, temperature, and associated soil food web to reach their full potential. When a tree is taken from an environment to which it has adapted and is placed in a sidewalk tree well, for example, one or more of these needs is reduced or lost. This places stress on the tree and, subsequently, the tree will not be able to thrive. Stressed trees become more susceptible to common problems such as fungus, insects and diseases. Tree pests that are minor issues in the woods become major issues in urban trees.

Many Missouri trees can be used in urban environments when the right tree is put in the right place and is protected from avoidable health problems. Knowing what trees need, and the possible stressors for those trees, will help identify future problems and treatments.

Urban tree stress is usually the result of a combination of factors and each species of tree varies in its inherent ability to resist these factors.

Trees such as linden, elm and some oaks are well known for their hardiness in urban landscapes because they are able to thrive in difficult growing situations. The factors that create these difficult growing situations include competition with turf grass, compaction, nutrient-poor soils, under- and over-watering, temperatures too hot or too cold, pollution, improper planting, construction damage and heat-island effects. Age also plays a contributing role in the susceptibility to stress; newly planted trees, as well as older, mature trees, are most likely to be negatively affected. Root loss from construction

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