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I have a large linden tree in my backyard (see photos below). Going by the age of the house, it could be up to 100 years old. I estimate the height at 45-50 ft, and diameter of trunk roughly 3 ft. There aren't any large dead sections. This tree was a selling point of the house.

Previous owners had tied a couple swings in the branches, and my children would love a tree house. Rather than building a large structure around the trunk, our preference is to have some places to sit among the branches. I think the linden shape, with its large fork of upward-angled branches will lend itself well to this.

I understand that there's no way to permanently attach things without creating a wound. I'd like to know just how much harm these things will do to the tree, and how to best minimize it. If it comes down to it, I'd rather give up these plans than lead the tree to an untimely death.

Considering the size and age of the tree, how harmful would any of the following be to the tree?

  • Re-attach swings with wide straps or eye screws, to avoid strangling the branches.
  • Re-position straps wrapped around the branches annually.
  • Install eye screws in the large branches around the fork, and use them to hold a rope net and/or suspend boards.
  • Install a couple of Treehouse Attachment Bolts--in case I suddenly become wealthy :).

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

linden tree

linden tree higher angle

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When using nails or screws in trees, it will always harm the tree of course. But when done properly, your tree will survive and stay healthy. Compare it with getting ears pierced, everyone knows that it is not healthy to stick sharp objects through body parts, however when done properly and when it heals some might even find it attractive.

Please consider a few thing when screwing or nailing in trees. First, use stainless nails or screws. You don't want rust in the tree. Second, do it only on healthy big trees (at least 10 inch in diameter). Seen from your picture and your description, I think that will be fine in your case. Last thing to consider is remember where you put the nails or screws, maybe years later you'll need to prune some branches and an unexpected nail might be dangerous for your chainsaw.

Good luck and have fun with the tree!

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Generally, would suggest avoid putting Any holes or fasteners in the tree: swings suspended by loosish straps would probably be ok, as long as wasn't much weight on them(consider also that rambunctious swinging also increases the tension on the ropes per any given weight, and also increases abrasion on bark, and interfere with nutrient flow tissue more). Fasteners would always flex a small amount when in use, enough to remain open to contamination, and also enough to stimulate continuing reaction by the tree to the fasteners. Wider & padded straps are very important to keep from compromising nutrient transport tissue, however, at the same time, the wider the straps, the more they can retain excessive moisture & shelter pests etc.

Very established even much larger & older trees have coincidentally Expired within a few years of having swings, ladder steps placed up them(done carefully), small structures built up in them, or even been fairly often climbed in. Some very large trees have done fine for centuries with birds nesting in them, but even quite a few bird nests tend to distribute what is also lesser weight. Typically, large trees may seem to outwardly do fine, perhaps for several years, but then as they continue to expire it becomes more noticeable, as large branches wither & fall off, and they may remain standing for several years even after having entirely expired. All movements on and to trees affects them, including wind action, although the effect of each movement might be extremely subtle. (eg, trees may grow very noticeably over time according to tendency of prevailing winds) Also, avoid driving anything over the root systems, or adding any structures, soil, or sandboxes etc on top of the roots. The concept of adjusting any bands holding swings is very good, and remember that the farther out on a branch a swing might be suspended from, the much larger the multiplicative leverage effect! And it's good avoiding any abrasions to the your nice Linden Tree. Good question & good helpful illustrations.

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