The Sentinel at the Cemetery

Removal of Hollow Lombardy Poplar – North Seattle, WA

Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’) trees can grow up to 150 feet tall. They are often planted in rows as “living walls” and privacy screens. Trees within the Populus genus, including Cottonwoods, Poplars and Aspen, are known for rapid growth and then rapid decline.

This particular tree was located in a large cemetery in North Seattle. It had been previously pruned to remove dead limbs. The tree was declining further with newly dead limbs visible in the upper canopy. This type of dieback is often the result of root disease or decay. In mature trees, there may be significant decay in the lower trunk even though much of the canopy is still green. Like many trees in this genus, structural defects in Lombardy Poplars are easily overlooked when the tree “looks OK” to a casual observer.

A member of the cemetery grounds crew noticed a small cavity (6 inches diameter) in the trunk and Tree133 was called for risk assessment and mitigation. Our assessor quickly determined the lower trunk was hollow. Watch Craig's video for a closer look...

The tree was over 44 inches diameter. However, the remaining “shell wall” thickness was less than 5 inches. This was compounded with significant decay in large roots close to the trunk. Together, these “red flags” indicated a hazard tree that needed to be removed promptly.

Working in a cemetery requires great care with irreplaceable “targets” to protect – gravesites, fragile monuments and stone markers. The hazardous condition of this tree made it both unsafe to climb and unsuitable for technical rigging with ropes. We had a serious concern about whole-tree failure during the removal process.

To perform the work safely, Tree133 utilized a large crane to carefully dismantle the tree. Rather than cutting and dropping pieces, the crane enabled us to “pick” large tree pieces and “fly” them to a designated landing area. The combination of Tree133’s extensive crane experience and clear communication with the crane operator made the project a success.

Working together, our team successfully identified and eliminated a significant hazard for the cemetery and its visitors. All work was performed using safety best-practices to ensure the well-being of our crew and the public.

If you are concerned about trees on your property, contact Tree133 for a professional risk assessment.