What are your trees worth?

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

However, many people don't realize 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 losses.

Some Practical Advice

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

How Your Trees and Shrubs are Evaluated - Seek the advice of professionals in this field who have developed a set of guidelines for the evaluation. These guidelines have been widely adopted in the field and are recognized by insurance companies, the courts, and in some cases, the government.

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

A casualty loss is considered due to an identifiable event of sudden, unexpected or unusual nature. This can include such things 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 homeowner's insurance policy to determine the amount and kind of coverage. Contact the insurance company to arrange for them to have an appraisal made by a professional. Have the appraisal made right after your loss or damage. The tree and landscape appraiser accomplishes many things for you. They can see things you might miss, help correct damage, prescribe remedies including those 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 and replacements. All this is a wise investment, well worth the cost you may incur for the inspection.

Four Factors in Professional Evaluation of Trees and Other Plants:

  1. Tree 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 evaluated by professionals who use a specialized appraisal formula.

  2. The kind of tree (or classification). Choose the species for its utility and its adaptability. Tree values vary according to your region, the 'hardiness' zone, and even province and local conditions. Trees which are hardy, durable, highly adaptable, and free from objectionable characteristics are worth the most. They require less maintenance; they have sturdy, well-shaped branches and pleasing foliage.

  3. Condition of the tree, shrub or plant. The professional also will consider the condition of the plant. Obviously, a healthy, well-maintained plant will have a higher value. Roots, trunk, branches and buds need to be inspected before determining tree condition.

  4. Location of the plant. There are functional considerations as well as aesthetics. This is where location enters into the calculation. A tree in your yard maybe worth more than one growing in the woods. One standing alone will often value higher than one in a group. A tree near your house or one which is a focal point in your landscape tends to have more value. The Site, Placement and Contribution of a tree help determine the overall value of the plant attributable to Location.

All of these factors can be measured in dollars and cents, and determine the value of a tree, specimen shrubs or evergreen.

Checklist

These are steps to take before and after any casualty loss to your trees and landscape. Taking these precautions can improve the value of your investment in nature's green, growing gifts, and prevent financial loss if they should be damaged or destroyed.

  • Plan your landscaping for both beauty and functional value.
  • Protect and preserve to maintain value.
  • Take pictures of trees and other landscape plants now, while they are healthy and vigorous. This makes "before and after" comparisons easier and will expedite the processing.
  • Check your insurance. In most cases, the amount of an allowable claim is included in a policy.
  • Keep accurate records of your landscape appraisal(s) and real estate appraisals for any losses.
  • Consult you local Plant Health Care professional at every stage in the life of your landscape - planning, planting, care and if/when a casualty strikes.

Information for this article was taken from the companion publications, Guide for Plant Appraisal and Manual for Plant Appraisers, available from the International Society of Arboriculture

This article is adapted from the brochure Tree Values - Developed by the International Society of Arboriculture, a non-profit organization supporting tree care research around the world and dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees.

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