When Cars Collide with Trees: Can a Tree Survive a Collision with a Car?

Posted on: 14 June 2017

Trees are surprisingly hardy life forms. They can survive severe winters, endure scorching summers and even shrug off a lightning strike. However, despite their ability to stand up to the elements and the forces of nature, they often fall prey to unnatural forces. Construction, land clearance, vandalism and accidents can cause trees health to decline, leading to their eventual death.

Unfortunately, when a car strikes a tree, it can end badly for both parties. In the aftermath of a car striking your tree, as the tree owner, it is only natural that you worry about the well-being of your tree. Can a tree survive such an impact? That depends on how much damage was done.

If your tree was recently struck by a car, answer the following questions when assessing the damage.

Is the Tree Still Firmly Rooted?

If your tree managed to withstand the force of the collision with the car, it is likely a mature tree, and therefore quite large. However, if the force of the collision caused your tree to become uprooted, or partially uprooted, there is a high likelihood that it will die. Once its roots are damaged, a tree will no longer have the ability to provide itself with water and nutrients from the soil. Tree roots don't just supply a tree with water and nutrients; they also keep the tree anchored in the soil. Without this anchorage, the tree could topple and damage the surrounding area.

You should hire a professional for tree felling in this case. However, if your tree is still firmly rooted, it may survive.

Is the Tree's Bark Intact?

A tree's bark serves the same purpose as human skin. The bark protects what is known as the phloem layer via which the tree distributes valuable nutrients from its leaves to the rest of the tree, keeping it strong and vital. Minor damage to the bark shouldn't cause the tree too much trouble, though it may still be susceptible to disease and pests later if the wound is not treated.

However, if over 50 percent of the bark has been lost, your tree could die. If 100 percent of the bark around a section of the tree has been lost, from one side to the other, the tree will most likely die as it will have no way of transporting nutrients from its leaves to the section below the missing bark.

Repair Your Tree to Increase its Chances of Survival

You can repair bark damage to increase your tree's chances of survival. After the car has been removed, wash the wound with soap and water to remove any bacteria or pathogens that may be present. Rinse with plain water afterwards. If you are able to retrieve any of the bark, you can reattach it. Gather up the bark scattered around the tree and reattach it to the tree with duct tape to hold it in place. Be sure to place the bark in the right direction, i.e. with the grain moving in the same direction. Do this fast enough, and you could save your tree.

If your tree is uprooted or has lost all the bark around an entire section of the trunk, you may need an arborist to remove it before the tree becomes a hazard. Injured trees may not show any symptoms at all until next spring when growth will be stunted. Therefore, it might be a good idea for you to hire an arborist to assess the damage and give you an idea of what to expect in the coming months. 


How to Care for Your Trees

Hi, my name is Sophie. Welcome to my tree care blog. I never paid much attention to trees until I was about 32 years old. I mean, I liked trees. I liked sitting under trees in the summer, but I didn't really think about the effort needed to keep them healthy. All that changed when I married a wonderful man and we purchased a big house in the countryside. The property featured a large garden which contained lots of trees. I wasn't sure how to manage them so I called in a tree service. The guys were great and gave me a real education. I decided I would like to share what I had learnt here.


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