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The house we recently moved into has a large tree that I believe to be a Tulip Poplar in the back yard. It's 40-45 feet tall and the trunk is roughly 21 feet around (~6.7 feet across). However, it was topped before we bought the house, and the trunk is covered with ivy for almost the entire height. I don't know how old the tree is, but the house is about 90 years old.

Aside from one (large) side branch that appears dead, the remaining branches are growing leaves, but the arborist I've talked to (over the winter) said that they probably aren't enough to feed it. The tree is close enough to the house that if it fell in our direction, it would cause serious damage, but it's also close enough to the edge of the property that if it fell in almost any other direction, it will "just" hit a parking lot.

As such, I have the following two questions:

  1. Is the tree as much of goner as it seems? Or is it likely to be able to last for a while if left alone?
  2. If we do have the tree taken down, could I find someone who could benefit from that (other than via firewood or wood chips)? Would there be anyone worth contacting to see if some of the wood would be useful to them? Or should I just let the arborist who takes it down do whatever they choose with it?
    (For some far-fetched thoughts, might anyone be interested in turning some of it into one of those tree slices at nature museums which point out all the rings for historic events? Or climate research? Or is it practical to commission someone to make something out of the lumber?)

Finally, pictures! (Click for full size)

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    Bobson, your arborist should have answered most of these questions. It might be able to be pruned to thin allowing air through. It could be topped to continue the safest height. As well as the thinning. I'd get that arborist back and get him to answer direct questions such as; how much life is left in this tree? Are there any safety concerns? Is this tree healthy? – stormy Apr 21 '17 at 0:27
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    Hi Bobson! Do you have some pictures of the tree for us to look at please? As for project ideas, I love the scientific aspect! I'd ask the arborist if they know someone. Contact a local museum, arboretum, or historical society. For kids there are programs, like boy/girl scouts, 4-H, Nature's Classroom, Audubon, and other science programs, who'd love to have it. Since it's illegal and cruel to remove these things from public forests, teaching programs frequently look for donations. People like to make furniture out of real trees too. Advertise locally or put some out on the street for free! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Jun 19 '17 at 21:34
  • A second opinion from another arborist might also be warranted before taking it down. As for what to do with the wood, another idea might be to check for smaller, specialty sawmill in your area. A couple of these have opened in my area in the past several years, small lumber supply companies/sawmills that specialize in harvesting urban trees and turning them into lumber. The ones I'm aware of work with specific arborists, so you might want to look for the sawmill first and get an arborist recommendation from them. – michelle Jul 26 '17 at 16:30
  • @Sue - It took a long time, but I've finally managed to take pictures and upload them. – Bobson Aug 4 '17 at 3:34
  • @Bobson Good luck! But what a beautiful thing it is! – InitK Aug 4 '17 at 13:00
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The ivy isn't helping matters. It will eventually girdle the tree. Additionally it is adding weight to the crown, and acting as a sail, especially in the winter when the tree isn't used to having extra foliage up to. At the very minimum, cut all the ivy shoots around the tree at about waist height, removing 6-12" of stems. It would be best if you could work backwards and remove the ivy at least 5 feet from the trunk. I encourage you NOT to pull the ivy off the tree above where you have cut it. It will die and drop it leaves fairly quickly. If you pull it, you risk pulling large trunks of ivy off the tree which can easily hit you, or breaking branches, etc.

I too love the fact that you want to give the tree a life beyond firewood. Often times trees are saved for large restoration projects for what is called "large woody debris". The trunks and main limbs are scatter around for habitat and slope stability. I would reach out to any organizations that might be involved with such projects (public utility, universities [especially the grounds crew], parks, garden, arboreta, etc).

Not sure what part of the world you are in, but there might be chainsaw artists who would like it. Or as mentioned above, youth groups, speciality lumber mills etc.

The only thing that might make it complicated is the access. Those logs get heavy quickly, and they become difficult to move. Hopefully there's good truck access or it might not be possible to salvage the log.

It's a difficult call as to whether to remove the tree. Topping has weakened the tree, and likely caused the center of the trunk to rot from the inside out. The large dead branch, and weak leaf system might indicate fairly massive root disturbance. Are the parking lots fairly new? You might look for somebody to come do a hazard tree analysis for you. They would not only be able to determine the health of the tree, but the likelihood it would fail (and possibly which direction it would be mostly likely to fall).

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