General Question

andrew's avatar

Does a tree ever lose its balance?

Asked by andrew (15766 points ) September 13th, 2007

I’m not talking about a tree toppling over in a wind storm… does a tree ever outgrow its roots and fall over?

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13 Answers

gooch's avatar

Yes I have seen oak trees fall over that were over 200 years old. Maybe it was just old age

kevbo's avatar

In Biosphere 1 and/or 2, they did because the absence of wind prevented them from developing, uh, whatever strength vector they needed to stay upright.

gailcalled's avatar

Possibly. I see huge trees lying on their sides w. gigantic root balls showing – here where there are a lot of big trees. But it is hard to determine causality unless one is there for the fall. Given the laws of physics, I would say “Yes.”

Poser's avatar

More importantly, does it make a sound when it loses its balance, if there’s no one around to hear it?

rosedog's avatar

I once asked a ranger in King’s Canyon National Park how giant sequoias die naturally. (Since some of those trees are thousands of years old, I was wondering if they ever die naturally at all, or have to be killed by a fire or some other event.) She said that they don’t die of old age, they just become too top-heavy for their root structure and fall over.

hossman's avatar

We’ve got a tree in our neighbor’s backyard that is slowly toppling into our yard. It can happen relatively quickly if something happens to one of its major branches which is then removed, then the canopy is off balance and the tree can overcome its roots. By the way, andrew, I saw Lucas today, and he says hi.

extolsmith's avatar

One would think a tree would not, but mostly to illness of ill-growth, trees often grow to heavy on one side. One side may be healthier then another and the soil may be less sustainable then another and well, wind can be the straw that broke the camels back. Tree maintenance is important, for though a tree may have good genes, corruption has set in and imperfections is a reality.

Am I still talking of trees?

sarahsugs's avatar

The giant redwoods along the California coast definitely fall over in their old age. It’s part of how the redwood forests regenerate – the old trees decompose and provide nutrients for the younger trees. I visited one of the old-growth forests recently and saw the gigantic craters left in the earth from the old trees’ rootbeds ripping out. Even lying on their sides, some of those trees were three times as tall as I am. Pretty incredible.

andrew's avatar

So, barring old age, a tree will naturally right itself. There aren’t any “clumsy” trees.

nomtastic's avatar

i think some eucalyptus trees might be “clumsy” because they have such shallow roots

hossman's avatar

Perhaps what you are referring to, Andrew, is tropism. A counteracting force to a tree starting to “tip over” (if it is a gradual process and not a sudden, catostrophic occurrence) is the tree will naturally seek to grow toward light and water and away from gravity. If the tree is starting to lean away from light and water or toward gravity, the tropism will cause the tree to start to grow in a direction counterbalancing the tip.

susanc's avatar

Last winter, there were big rainstorms (more than usual, even) in my part of the Pacific NW. A lot of trees fell over because their rootballs couldn’t hold onto the soaked earth. Wind was a factor too, but the extra sogginess really made the roots kinda floaty.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I’ve seen many of the older oaks on my college campus with huge metal beams supporting one or more of their branches. I’m not exactly what the purpose of this is, but I get the feeling that whoever made the decision to put those there was afraid that the branches were becoming too heavy for the tree, and it might topple over. Of course outside forces such as construction and utility poles were influencing the way the tree was growing.

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