Old trees are like mountains. They rise up, indomitable and powerful, providing shade and beauty for your garden in equal measure. However, while these woody sentinels may appear robust and sturdy on the outside, they are not completely impervious to harm. Many natural--and unnatural--forces can damage trees, such as termites, high winds and pruning done too close to the trunk.
What often occurs once a tree has been damaged in this way is that over time the damaged area begins to decay, and this decay eventually forms a hollow in the tree.
If you have noticed that a tree in your garden has a hollow in its trunk or one of its branches, don't assume that it needs to be removed. Not only can hollow-bearing trees live on for many years, they can also help the environment.
Your Tree Could Help Save Endangered Australian Fauna
Did you know that over 300 species of Australian animal use tree hollows as homes? Larger animals, such as the possum or owl need bigger hollows, which can take hundreds of years to form. Endangered birds such as the Superb Parrot and the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo, along with 19 other species, build their nests in the hollows of trees. However, because of a lack of hollow-bearing trees, these species are under threat.
In fact, the Swift Parrot is now so rare that a group of arborists recently volunteered to travel to Tasmania to replace tree hollows lost to firewood collection, using chainsaws, to provide nesting sites for the endangered birds.
If your tree is structurally sound, and can provide a home for Australian wildlife, both mammal and amphibian, you could do your part to help the environment by leaving your tree as it is. However, your safety and that of your neighbours must come first.
What Species is the Tree?
Some species are more high risk than others, such as the willow, basswood, silver maple and cottonwood. Research the species to get a better idea of the risks.
What is its Condition?
Leaning, haggard-looking trees probably don't have much time left and may come down in high winds. Sturdy, upright trees with healthy crowns may have many more years left before they become a hazard.
If the tree is too close to buildings, a road or areas with a high level of foot-traffic, you might need to think about calling a tree specialist to assess the risks. Whatever you decide, it is always better to be careful in this situation. Seek out a reputable arborist and have them examine the tree to determine the best course of action.