Arboriculture. What’d he say?…

When people ask what I do, I tell them Arboriculture, or I’m an Arborist. So what is that?

Arboriculture by definition essentially means “the care of trees.”  An ‘arborist’ is one who does the caring.  The industry itself is a ‘division’ of horticulture or more specifically forestry.  But, the main difference between arborists and foresters is that arboriculture focuses more on the care of individual trees and other woody plants, and not a whole population, like a forest or stand of trees.  While a forester cares and manages large tracts of trees and may not be interested in the health or structure of one individual tree in that forest, an arborist cares for one tree at a time (like those in your yard or city).

Trees that grow in yards and within communities have special needs that differ from those in a forest.  For example, if a tree has a defect in a forest and falls, it is unlikely to harm anyone or property, but that tree near a home can cause a lot of damage if not properly taken care of.  Therefore, it is important that the trees within our communities and yard be cared for.

When trees grow in yards and along roads, they are in different habitats than what is found in a forest.  The soil structure is different.  Light and wind affect the tree differently.  There is less room for the roots to grow, and usually, the trees do not grow with the same structure as would happen in the woods.  There are also a lot more stresses to a tree in the urban environment as well.  Insects and diseases can attack and spread easier than in a forest ecosystem.  The tree has to compete with grass and lawns.  There is also the stress from the extra heat from roads and roofs, lack of water, and damages to the tree from lawn mowers, weed whips, nails, or excessive pruning.  Trees are resilient, but one too many stresses, and it doesn’t take much to kill it.

Arboriculture also refers to the work done on individual trees.  Specific pruning types, specialized removal techniques, planting, and even plant health care are all aspects that an arborist must learn and incorporate into a tree’s care.  There are standards, developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), that relate specifically to all the aspects of arboriculture.  Arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) are required as part of their certification to follow and adhere to the best of their ability to these ANSI A300 standards.

I hope this summary helps your understanding of what it is I do and why I feel it important. Caring for a tree is a delicate and scientific process.