The Car-Killing Tree, Continued

Since there was a bit of chatter about the tree in my neighborhood that fell over and compacted the Lexus SUV next door, I thought an update was in order. For starters, it turns out my amateur diagnosis was correct: the monkey grass surrounding the tree is what caused it to rot and then topple over. (It was a pecan tree, I believe, if I’m correctly remembering what my wife told me, which is rare.) We had an arborist come over and inspect a few trees in our yard and the immediate environs. The one in our yard is fine, though it needs more roots showing–a counterintuitive approach in bleach-blond Dallas. A couple across the street, however, are set to come down, mostly due to the same problem that (ahem) befell the car-killing tree.

If you live in a tree-filled area, not a bad idea to get someone out to check on them. The city will do it for free, but it takes a long time. The guy who came to our house was not from the city, did it for free, and was very reasonable on price when it came to fixing a few of the problems. If you want his name, check the comments; I’m sure my wife will jump on with the answer.


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10 responses to “The Car-Killing Tree, Continued”

  1. NC says:

    Moore Tree Service. They are also organic, which is a big deal to me. And, yes, their prices are reasonable.

  2. Billusa99 says:

    That border of monkey grass surrounding the tree is not going to cause it to rot and fall by itself. No way. If so, then half the trees in east Dallas, surrounded by monkey grass and liriope would be down 10 years ago.

    From that pic, the tree had its root flare covered by the bed around it. In other words, the flower bed around the tree was built up (the trunk, covering the flare) and planted with the grass and who knows what else over the years.

    When the root flare of a tree is covered, it gradually leads to bad things and the roots start to grow to the surface and star to girdle the tree (grow around the trunk just below the surface). In addition, one can see that the tree is covered in vines (ivy of some sort?) all the way up the trunk into the branches and crown. The vines rob the tree of water (before the tree can uptake it) and of light to the leaves up top.

    All of that together slowly starves and weakens the pecan, till it falls over.

    So, cut the vines at the tree base, expose the root flare (you can do it with a shovel) and your tree will come back. If it’s not too late….

  3. publicnewsense says:

    I don’t know about all that technical stuff but I heard there was a high school gang called “The Lumberjacks” that was going around sawing into tree trunks and setting up motion-activated cams to catch the trees falling, then posting it on the internet. I think I’ve seen “The Lumberjacks” spray-painted on the clubhouse at Tennison Park…..

  4. Zac Crain says:

    I may have misstated the exact cause, but the arborist was indeed of the opinion that the monkey grass was the culprit. He added that it is generally fine, but this can happen. I don’t know–this is all secondhand. Call Moore Tree Service and you guys can battle it out.

    But thanks for the specific info re: root flare. That’s what I was talking about regarding our tree but lacked the knowledge to do so.

  5. Bethany says:

    public: Do you think those kids know about this?

  6. Don in Austin says:


    What he said. Pecans grow in seasonally saturated soils so cotton root rot is very unlikely. It sure will do a number on Photina though. Thanks for followup post, Zac.

  7. publicnewsense says:

    Bethany, No doubt that is the lynchpin of this urban gang. It is quite possible that The Lumberjacks are involved in “revival vandalism.” If you have a nose for news, you might check local tobacconists to see if they’re getting calls asking if they have Prince Albert in a can.

  8. NC says:

    Billusa, the liriope was planted butt up to the tree trunk covering the root flare. The liriope kept the moisture trapped next to the trunk base, probably causing it to decay, which then invited disease, mold, fungus or whatever else caused it to completely die and fall over. There were also vines, yes. And I did repeatedly tell people that while it looked nice, those vines were going to strangle that tree. I feel like I spend half my life puling vines from my crape myrtle. So, there you go. Zac hates “monkey grass” so he was uber excited to report that it was the beginning of the end of that poor tree.

    Moral to the story…have your trees maintained! A little investment up front can save lots of money, time, worry, etc.

  9. Tree Jedi says:

    The dreaded monkey grass was but a cover over a much greater problem for any tree on that property and many others across town – ignorance of what makes a tree a ‘happy’ tree. I don’t expect everyone to know everything about tree physiology. That’s what keeps the professionals in business. But these trees are too big and potentially dangerous to be playing guessing games about if its healthy or not.

    I’d like to point out that the city arborists don’t make it a habit to go about checking on everyone’s trees but they do try to help out once in a while when it appears wise (and not given to significant time loss) to do so. When they do check things out, they try to move quickly, but these are mostly for trees on public property (parkways). An ‘unhappy’ tree can be a dangerous tree – like when it lands on an SUV. I encourage everyone with large trees, a well-irrigated lawn and known soil grade changes (for planters, etc.) near the trees to have a professional arborist investigate their trees for more than just a above ground visual inspection. It’s what’s NOT under the ground (namely healthy roots) that can be dangerous. It may not always be so obvious by looking up to know if it’s about to fall. These inspections (along with selective pruning) conducted every few years should be a standard practice for property owners with large trees.

  10. Zac Crain says:

    That’s why we got a pro.