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Vancouver trees need more water, city asks locals for help

Last Updated Jul 9, 2021 at 8:45 am PDT

The City of Vancouver is appealing to the public for help in getting some trees watered. This comes weeks after a massive heatwave caused many trees to snap. (Courtesy City of Vancouver)

City of Vancouver is asking public, businesses to water trees if they can through #ThirstyTrees campaign

Vancouver arborist says many trees have been trying to store as much water as they can, causing them to break

City crews are working daily to try and water as many trees as possible

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The recent heatwave to take over the Lower Mainland has also had a major impact on local trees, with many seeming to look tired and droopy.

Some have even snapped under the pressure of recent conditions.

Vancouver’s Arborist Supervisor Joe McLeod says these breaks can happen as trees are trying to store as much water as they can.

“The transpiration rate, which is the water that moves the leaves of the trees, the trees can’t keep up. And in some cases, they get so filled with water and that weight of all the water can get to the point where it just exceeds the structural ability of the tree to support that weight,” he told NEWS 1130.

Read more: Metro Vancouver’s hot, dry conditions create increased risk of fires

McLeod says he used to live and work as an arborist in Nashville, Tennessee, adding high temperatures would lead to this sort of thing more often than they do here.

But in Vancouver, this is not typical.

“This is rare for Vancouver, to have such extreme heat,” he explained, adding, “this is something more typically associated with southern climates.”

While there is no definitive sign that a tree will suddenly “fail,” McLeod says there are a few things experts look for.

He says trees at risk of snapping will usually have no leaves and many dead branches. He says teams also look for the “presence of fungal bodies,” such as mushrooms and other fungus on the stem of trees.

“Signs and symptoms like that will be an indicator that the tree may be predisposed to failure,” he told NEWS 1130. “But when it comes to trees and mortality, as associated with water and drought conditions, it’s pretty safe to say this time of year, no matter how much water you give a tree, it will almost certainly use that water.

“We certainly aren’t at risk of over-watering trees when it comes to the heat we’ve been experiencing,” McLeod added.

While city crews are working daily to try and water as many trees as possible, they can’t get to them all.

“We have four crews that are working full-time through the summer watering trees. We’ve asked those crews, where they’re able to, to go out and work overtime,” he said, noting they begin a typical day that starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.

“We’ve also recruited our colleagues in engineering to see if they can provide some watering as well. That said, that’s definitely not enough for the 150,000-160,000 trees that we have on our streets, not to mention the innumerable trees in our parks.”

Watering #ThirstyTrees

That’s where you come in.

“If we can get some help from the citizens and businesses to water trees, that’s really helpful,” McLeod said. He notes even watering trees a couple of times a week can help.

People are told to look out for water bags or “Water me” tags on neighbourhood trees. McLeod says watering should be done under the entire canopy or drip line of a tree for up to 10 minutes per tree.

It should be noted that watering restrictions are in effect across Vancouver. Make sure you check in with the city to see what kind of watering you can do in your neighbourhood.

Vancouverites can call 3-1-1 for more information. They are also urged to report any trees that may be of concern to city staff.