Tree Value

What Are Your Trees Worth?

Almost everyone knows that trees and other living plants are valuable. They beautify our surroundings, purify our air, act as sound barriers, manufacture precious oxygen, and help us save energy through their cooling shade in summer and their wind reduction in winter.

Many people don’t realize, however, that plants have a dollar value of their own that can be measured by competent plant appraisers.

If your trees or shrubs are damaged or destroyed, you may be able to recapture your loss through an insurance claim or as a deduction from your federal income tax.

Some Practical Advice

Here is some practical advice that may help you find out what your trees and plants are worth (a process known as valuation).

Planning for Highest Value

A professional in the tree, nursery, or landscape industry can help you plan, develop, install, and care for all of your trees and plants so that each of them will be worth more to you.

How Your Trees and Shrubs Are Valuated

Seek the advice of professionals in this industry who have developed a set of guidelines for the valuation. Such guidelines have been widely adopted in the field and are recognized by insurance companies, the courts, and, in some cases, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

What to Do If You Suffer Loss or Damage to Your Landscape Plants

A casualty loss is defined by the IRS as “… a loss resulting from an identifiable event of sudden, unexpected, or unusual nature.” This definition can include such events as vehicular accidents, storms, floods, lightning, vandalism, or even air and soil pollution.

If you suffer damage to trees or landscaping from any type of casualty, first consult your home owner’s insurance policy to determine the amount and kind of coverage. Contact the insurance company to have an appraisal made by a competent tree and landscape professional who is experienced in plant appraisal. Have the appraisal made right after your loss or damage.

The tree and landscape appraiser accomplishes many things for you. The professional can see things you might miss, help correct damage, and prescribe remedies you may be able to do yourself. The appraiser will establish the amount of your loss in financial terms, including the cost of removing debris and making repairs as well as replacements. All of these steps are wise investments and well worth the cost you may incur for the inspection.

Four Factors in Professional Valuation of Trees and Other Plants

Size. Sometimes the size and age of a tree are such that it cannot be replaced. Trees that are too large to be replaced should be assessed by professionals who use a specialized appraisal formula.

Species or classification. Trees that are hardy, durable, highly adaptable, and free from objectionable characteristics are most valuable. They require less maintenance; they have sturdy, well-shaped branches, and pleasing foliage. Tree values vary according to your region, the “hardiness” zone, and even state and local conditions. If you are not familiar with these variables, be sure your advice comes from a competent source.

Condition. The professional will also consider the condition of the plant. Obviously, a healthy, well-maintained plant has a higher value. Roots, trunk, branches, and buds need to be inspected

Location. Functional considerations are important. A tree in your yard may be worth more than one growing in the woods. A tree standing alone often has a higher value than one in a group. A tree near your house or one that is a focal point in your landscape tends to have more value. The site, placement, and contribution of a tree to the overall landscape help determine the overall value of the plant attributable to location.

All of these factors can be measured in dollars and cents. They can determine the value of a tree, specimen shrubs, or evergreens, whether for insurance purposes, court testimony in lawsuits, or tax deductions.


Checklist

These steps should be taken before and after any casualty loss to your trees and landscape. Taking them can improve the value of your investment in nature’s green, growing gifts and prevent financial loss should they be damaged or destroyed.

Benefits of trees

Most trees and shrubs in cities or communities are planted to provide beauty or shade. These are two excellent reasons for their use. Woody plants also serve many other purposes, and it often is helpful to consider these other functions when selecting a tree or shrub for the landscape. The benefits of trees can be grouped into social, communal, environmental, and economic categories.

Social Benefits

We like trees around us because they make life more pleasant. Most of us respond to the presence of trees beyond simply observing their beauty. We feel serene, peaceful, restful, and tranquil in a grove of trees. We are “at home” there. Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. The strong ties between people and trees are most evident in the resistance of community residents to removing trees to widen streets. Or we note the heroic efforts of individuals and organizations to save particularly large or historic trees in a community.

The stature, strength, and endurance of trees give them a cathedral-like quality. Because of their potential for long life, trees frequently are planted as living memorials. We often become personally attached to trees that we or those we love have planted.

Communal Benefits

Even though trees may be private property, their size often makes them part of the community as well. Because trees occupy considerable space, planning is required if both you and your neighbors are to benefit. With proper selection and maintenance, trees can enhance and function on one property without infringing on the rights and privileges of neighbors.

City trees often serve several architectural and engineering functions. They provide privacy, emphasize views, or screen out objectionable views. They reduce glare and reflection. They direct pedestrian traffic. They provide background to and soften, complement, or enhance architecture.

Environmental Benefits

Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. We are cooler when we stand in the shade of trees and are not exposed to direct sunlight. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy. Therefore, we should plant only small or deciduous trees on the south side of homes.

Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the greater the influence of the windbreak. The downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail is initially absorbed or deflected by trees, which provides some protection for people, pets, and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding.

Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.

Air quality can be improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and give off oxygen.

By planting trees and shrubs, we return to a more natural, less artificial environment. Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the area. The natural cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.

Economic Benefits

Individual trees and shrubs have value, but the variability of species, size, condition, and function makes determining their economic value difficult. The economic benefits of trees can be both direct and indirect. Direct economic benefits are usually associated with energy costs. Air-conditioning costs are lower in a tree-shaded home. Heating costs are reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees increase in value from the time they are planted until they mature. Trees are a wise investment of funds because landscaped homes are more valuable than non landscaped homes. The savings in energy costs and the increase in property value directly benefit each home owner.

The indirect economic benefits of trees are even greater. These benefits are available to the community or region. Lowered electricity bills are paid by customers when power companies are able to use less water in their cooling towers, build fewer new facilities to meet peak demands, use reduced amounts of fossil fuel in their furnaces, and use fewer measures to control air pollution. Communities also can save money if fewer facilities must be built to control storm water in the region. To the individual, these savings are small, but to the community, reductions in these expenses are often in the thousands of dollars.

Trees Require an Investment

Trees provide numerous aesthetic and economic benefits but also incur some costs. You need to be aware that an investment is required for your trees to provide the benefits that you desire. The biggest cost of trees and shrubs occurs when they are purchased and planted. Initial care almost always includes some watering. Leaf, branch, and whole tree removal and disposal can be expensive.

To function well in the landscape, trees require maintenance. Much can be done by the informed home owner. Corrective pruning and mulching gives trees a good start. Shade trees, however, quickly grow to a size that may require the services of a professional arborist. Arborists have the knowledge and equipment needed to prune, spray, fertilize, and otherwise maintain a large tree. Your garden center owner, university extension agent, community forester, or consulting arborist can answer questions about tree maintenance, suggest treatments, or recommend qualified arborists.

The PHC Alternative

Maintaining mature landscapes is a complicated undertaking. You may wish to consider a professional plant health care (PHC) maintenance program that is now available from many landscape care companies. The program is designed to maintain plant vigor and initially should include inspections to detect and treat any existing problems that could be damaging or fatal. Thereafter, regular inspections and preventive maintenance help ensure plant health and beauty. Refer to our plant health care brochure for more information.

Tree selection is one of the most important investment decisions a home owner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree lost to damage or disease. Considering that most trees have the potential to outlive the people who plant them, the impact of this decision is one that can influence a lifetime. Match the tree to the site, and both lives will benefit.

The question most frequently asked of tree care professionals is “Which kind of tree do you think I should plant?” Before this question can be answered, a number of factors need to be considered. Think about the following questions:

Asking and answering these and other questions before selecting a tree will help you choose the “right tree for the right place.”

Tree Function

Trees make our surroundings more pleasant. Properly placed and cared for, trees increase the value of our real estate. A large shade tree provides relief from summer’s heat and, when properly placed, can reduce summer cooling costs. An ornamental tree provides beautiful flowers, leaves, bark, or fruit. Evergreens with dense, persistent leaves can be used to provide a windbreak or a screen for privacy. A tree that drops its leaves in the fall allows the sun to warm a house in the winter. A tree or shrub that produces fruit can provide food for the owner and/or attract birds and wildlife into your home landscape. Street trees decrease the glare from pavement, reduce runoff, filter out pollutants, and add oxygen to the air we breath. Street trees also improve the overall appearance and quality of life in a city or neighborhood.

Form and Size

A basic principle of modern architecture is “form follows function.” This is a good rule to remember when selecting a tree. Selecting the right form (shape) to complement the desired function (what you want the tree to do) can significantly reduce maintenance costs and increase the tree’s value in the landscape. When making a selection about form, also consider mature tree size. Trees grow in a variety of sizes and shapes, as shown below. They can vary in height from several inches to several hundred feet. Select a form and size that will fit the planting space provided.

Depending on your site restrictions, you can choose from among hundreds of combinations of form and size. You may choose a small-spreading tree in a location with overhead utility lines. You may select a narrow, columnar form to provide a screen between two buildings. You may choose large, vase-shaped trees to create an arbor over a driveway or city street. You may even determine that the site just does not have enough space for a tree of any kind.

Site Conditions

Selecting a tree that will thrive in a given set of site conditions is the key to long-term tree survival. The following is a list of the major site conditions to consider before selecting a tree for planting:

Soil Conditions

The amount and quality of soil present in your yard can limit planting success. In urban sites, the topsoil often has been disturbed and frequently is shallow, compacted, and subject to drought. Under these conditions, trees are continuously under stress. For species that are not able to handle these types of conditions, proper maintenance designed to reduce stress is necessary to ensure adequate growth and survival. Many arborists will, for a minor charge, take soil samples from your yard to test for fertility, salinity, and pH (alkalinity or acidity). The tests will be returned with recommendations on ways to improve poor soil conditions with fertilizers or soil amendments (sand, compost, or manure) and will also help your local nursery or garden center recommend tree species that will do well in the soils found on your site.

Exposure

The amount of sunlight available will affect tree and shrub species selection for a particular location. Most woody plants require full sunlight for proper growth and flower bloom. Some do well in light shade, but few tree species perform well in dense shade. Exposure to wind is also a consideration. Wind can dry out soils, causing drought conditions and damage to branches and leaves during storms, and can actually uproot newly planted trees that have not had an opportunity to establish root systems. Special maintenance, such as staking or more frequent watering, may be needed to establish young trees on windy sites.

Human Activity

This aspect of tree selection is often overlooked. The reality of the situation is that the top five causes of tree death are the result of things people do: soil compaction, under watering, over watering, vandalism, and the number one cause—planting the wrong tree—account for more tree deaths than all insect and disease-related tree deaths combined.

Drainage

Tree roots require oxygen to develop and thrive. Poor drainage can remove the oxygen available to the roots from the soil and kill the tree. Before planting, dig some test holes 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep in the areas you are considering planting trees. Fill the holes with water and time how long it takes for the water to drain away. If it takes more than 6 hours, you may have a drainage problem. If so, ask your local garden center for recommendations on how to correct the problem, or choose a different site.

Space Constraints

Many different factors can limit the planting space available to the tree: overhead or underground utilities, pavement, buildings, other trees, visibility. The list goes on and on. Make sure there is adequate room for the tree you select to grow to maturity, both above and below ground.

Hardiness

Hardiness is the plant’s ability to survive in the extreme temperatures of the particular geographic region in which you are planting the tree. Plants can be cold hardy, heat tolerant, or both. Most plant reference books provide a map of hardiness zone ranges. Although tropical areas are generally Zone 11, higher elevations have cooler temperatures that may warrant adjustment to the hardiness zone classification. Check with your local garden center for the hardiness information for your region. Before you make your final decision, make sure the plant you have selected is “hardy” in your area.

Pest Problems

Insect and disease organisms affect almost every tree and shrub species. Every plant has its particular pest problems, and the severity varies geographically. These pests may or may not be life threatening to the plant. You should select plants resistant to pest problems for your area. Your local ISA Certified Arborist, tree consultant, or extension agent can direct you to information relevant to problem species for your location.

Species Selection

Personal preferences play a major role in the selection process. Now that your homework is done, you are ready to select a species for the planting site you have chosen. Make sure you use the information you have gathered about your site conditions, and balance it with the aesthetic decisions you make related to your personal preferences.

The species must be suitable for the geographic region (hardy), tolerant to the moisture and drainage conditions of your soil, be resistant to pests in your area, and have the right form and size for the site and function you have envisioned.

Remember, the beautiful picture of a tree you looked at in a magazine or book was taken of a specimen that is growing vigorously because it was planted in the right place. If your site conditions tell you the species you selected will not do well under those conditions, do not be disappointed when the tree does not perform in the same way.

If you are having difficulty answering any of these questions on your own, contact a local ISA Certified Arborist, tree care professional, garden center, or extension agent for assistance. Their assistance will help you to plant the “right tree in the right place.” It is better to get a professional involved early and help you make the right decision than to call him or her later to ask if you made the wrong decision.

This brochure is one in a series published by the International Society of Arboriculture as part of its Consumer Information Program. You may have additional interest in the following titles currently in the series:

 

*The information above is courtesy of http://www.treesaregood.com/

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