Trees & Power Lines
5 October 2005
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Trees are valuable assets in commercial, private, and public landscapes. Trees add aesthetic beauty, modify and enhance the environment, serve architectural and engineering functions, and increase property and community economic values. These same trees that enhance landscapes, however, are a major challenge for utility companies. Most people have grown accustomed to reliable, uninterrupted electric, telephone and cable service in their homes and offices. Unfortunately, trees are one of the major causes of power outages in areas of overhead utility lines due to direct tree contact with lines, or to trees or tree limbs falling on the lines.
The conflict between trees and utility lines is one we can see every day. Many homeowners have experienced either the loss of a tree or a significant portion of a tree due to the need to keep the limbs from damaging power lines.
While it is difficult to watch the symmetry of a beautiful old tree destroyed by a chain saw you also do not want to interrupt your power supply. For some homeowners, older trees may have sentimental value. Either they were planted by a relative long ago, or planted in memory of someone, or are simply where their children played happily during an earlier time.
It is not uncommon for large species of trees to be inappropriately planted near utility lines. These trees were probably pretty small when they were planted, and perhaps it was never imagined that these little trees would eventually grow and spread to interfere with power lines. Unfortunately, the only options for these trees are either repeated pruning that may leave them disfigured or complete removal of the tree.
The good news is that you do not need to remain completely treeless near utility lines. There are a number of tree species that remain small enough so they do not pose a threat, even when they are mature.
Whether you are planning to replace an existing tree or starting from scratch, the following list of tree species will give you some options (there are more!) to choose from at your local nursery or garden center when you are looking for a small tree for a restricted space.
|Common Name||Scientific Name|
|Trident maple||Acer buergerianum|
|Amur maple||Acer ginnala|
|Shantung maple||Acer truncatum|
|American hornbeam||Carpinus caroliniana|
|White fringetree||Chionanthus virginicus|
|Washington hawthorn||Crataegus phaenopyrum|
|Russian olive||Elaeagnus angustifolia|
|Winged euonymus||Euonymus alatus|
|Magnolia||Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem|
|Flowering crabapple||Malus species|
|Accolade flowering cherry||Prunus sargentii Accolade|
|Canada Red choke cherry||Prunus virginiana Canada Red|
|Swedish mountain ash||Sorbus intermedia|
|Columnar Oakleaf mountain ash||Sorbus thuringiaca fastigiata|
|Japanese tree lilac||Syringa reticulata|
|Evergreen oak||Quercus myrsinifolia|
|Japanese stewartia||Stewartia pseudocamellia|
|Japanese snowbell||Styrax japonicus|
|Doublefile viburnum||Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum|
If you would like to learn more about trees and utility lines I encourage you to attend Look Up Virginia, Virginias first trees and utilities conference on Wednesday, October 26 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond. The purpose of this conference is to inform those who are seeking to reduce tree/utility conflict by educating, influencing, and encouraging people to recognize conflict, remove problematic tree/utility situations, and plant appropriately. For more information about registration please call (434)220-9024.
Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office and speak with an Extension Agent or Master Gardener volunteer for more advice and information on lawn and landscape topics. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.