Vehicle Damage To Trees: Fixing A Tree Hit By Car

Yellow Car Crashed Into A Tree
tree hit by car
(Image credit: Sapsiwai)

Traumatic injury to trees can be a serious and even deadly problem. Vehicle injury to trees can be particularly difficult to correct since the damage is often severe. Fixing a tree hit by a car is a wait-and-see prospect, as sometimes the injury repairs itself but more often limbs and other parts of the tree need to be taken off and some finger crossing has to happen to see if the entire plant will survive the mutilation.

Vehicle Injury to Trees

It could happen to anyone on an icy street. Lose control of your vehicle and, wham, you've hit a tree. These incidents are more common in winter or, unfortunately, during holiday revelry when the operator has had too much to drink. Large trees that overhang streets are also victims of large trucks that smash into the branches and break and distort them. Whatever the cause, accident damage to trees can be a simple fix of pruning off the remaining damaged portion or the entire trunk may be crushed. The severity of the impairment must be vetted, and cleanup is the first step. It is not always possible to repair trees hit by vehicles, but most plants are tougher than they appear and can withstand mighty injury without much intervention.

Fixing a Tree Hit by a Car

Tree damage by car is one of the most shocking harms a plant can sustain. Not only does it cause physical destruction, but the very vitality of the tree is impaired. In severe instances, the only decision may have to be tree removal, but sometimes peripheral damage will not cause tree death and overtime it can recover. The first steps are to clean up and triage to assess the depth of the injury and what steps to take next. Remove any broken plant material to prevent further hazards and in order to get a good look at the injuries. If the entire tree is leaning precariously and the root ball has come up out of the ground, it is time to cordon off the area and seek a professional removal service. Such trees are dangerous to people and property and will require elimination from the landscape. Lightly damaged trees with limb wounds that are still firmly attached to the tree require no action immediately. There are wound treatments to prevent insects and disease from entering the plant but, in most cases, these are not necessary and prove to have limited benefit. Tree damage by cars may also include light trunk damage such as bark splitting or removal. These plants should not have any action taken except some TLC and good maintenance. Watch for any developing issues over the next couple of seasons but, generally, the plant will survive such light damage.

How to Repair Trees Hit by Vehicles

Complete annihilation of large branches requires pruning if the bark was entirely stripped or if more than one-third of the diameter has pulled away from the main trunk. Prune the branch off so that you do not cut into the trunk at an angle that reflects moisture away from the wound. Another thing to try to fix accident damage to trees is something called a bridge graft. Clean the breach in the branch and then cut some healthy plant material that is just large enough to insert under both edges of the wound. A piece about thumb-sized and 1 to 3 inches (2.5-8 cm.) in length should usually be enough. Make parallel cuts on each side of the wound to create flaps. Trim the healthy stems at each side so the edges are flattened. Insert both ends into either side of the flaps you just made in the direction the new wood was growing. The idea is that saps and carbohydrates will flow out of the bridge and help bring nutrients to the damaged area. It may not always work, but it is worth a try if you really want to save the limb.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.