Crossing paths with the DC tree gouger

A few weeks ago a friend sent me this story from the Washington Post about the DC tree gouger. This person went around the District gouging trees. Carving initials is pretty innocuous, but when you remove large areas of bark down to the cambium, trees can die. The University of Kentucky shows it well in this diagram. The part of the tree that moves water up to the leaves, and moves the products of photosynthesis back down from the leaves to feed the tree, is the cambium. The cambium is right under the bark. If you disrupt too much of it, the flow paths for the inputs and outputs of photosynthesis are disrupted and the tree can decline or die.

The article said most of the activity was around Shaw, Bloomingdale, and Logan Circle. Yesterday I was on a tree preservation assignment for a client around Gallaudet University when I came across this:

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A number of trees had large sections of cambium removed to form crosses, numbers, and symbols. Either the DC tree gouger’s footprint is larger than previously believed or there is copycat activity.

This is an unusual story. We understand the man responsible may have mental health issues and we hope he’s getting help.

How does this affect consulting arborists? Many ordinances or contracts hold developers responsible for impacts to trees around the limits of disturbance on a construction project. This responsibility can include fines, penalties, and remediation. Registered Consulting Arborists can help clients on construction projects by documenting existing condition prior to construction. In this case, the trees were extremely large and therefore high value. Penalties incurred for tree injury not related to construction can add cost, production delays, and tension between the parties. It is more likely that trees will have defects and damage other than that described here, but documenting existing condition prior to construction and deciding which trees are candidates for retention helps projects proceed efficiently.

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