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Diagnosing what ails sick trees

Industry News

Arborist cultivates a following with advice for 'shady characters.'

Chicago Tribune | July 2, 2010

LISLE, Ill. – After examining the trees in a client's yard in Lisle, arborist Steve Matravers delivers his proposal: Elevate the Norway maple's canopy so grass can grow underneath. Remove the mulberry tree that's invading the otherwise-nice row of evergreen trees. Trim the parkway trees so they quit slapping passersby who use the sidewalk. The crabapple trees in the back yard should be treated for apple scab fungus.

The homeowner promises to call after he runs the recommendations by "the boss" (his wife).

The Lisle stop is typical of the 14 calls Matravers makes each day as district manager of Davey Tree and Lawn Care in West Chicago. Based in Kent, Ohio, Davey Tree and Lawn Care has five Chicago-area locations. (And Matravers says he answers to "Steve" or "Dave.")

Matravers makes appointments on the hour, then fits in "when you're in the area" calls.

"A client will say, 'Could you drop by and see why my tree is looking yellow?' or 'What's the strange-looking patch in my yard?' I can check them out while they're at work," he says.

In addition, Matravers tells clients if he notices something askew. The Lisle client, for example, had a disconnected downspout.

"It's my job to deal with the interaction of trees and people," says Matravers. "Healthy trees provide shade and privacy, increase property values, absorb road noise and remove carbon dioxide. But they need care because they're living organisms."

Matravers oversees crews that trim, treat, fertilize and fell trees, and fertilize and treat lawns. Davey refers lawn mowing and landscape designing to other companies, which in turn call Davey for tree care.

The apple scab was an easy call, says Matravers, because it is so common. Ditto for Zimmerman borers on pine trees. (Look for white clumps of sap.) Emerald ash borers are prevalent now, he says, but are too often unrecognized until it is too late. The tell-tale sign: a dead tree top.

Other diagnoses are trickier. Then, Matravers sends a soil or tree sample to Davey's laboratory in Ohio.

"The biggest enemy of trees, honestly, is new houses," says Matravers. "Even if they aren't removed, their roots are destroyed by construction vehicles. They're vulnerable, so they get sick, just like you and me."

Please visit the Chicago Tribune to read the rest of this article.
 

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