Spotlight on Chris Francis

Chris Francis has always had a passion for trees. His company, Chris Francis Landscapes and Tree Service, provides design, landscape, irrigation systems, pruning, consulting, risk analysis and air excavation services for trees in the Bay area. Just in time for Arbor Day, which Alabama celebrates the last week of February, the Certified Arborist shares his tree expertise.

What does an arborist do?

A wide range of things. In general, an arborist is someone who works with trees. It could be planting, pruning, consulting or growing. Anyone can call themselves an arborist, but to be certified, you have to go through the qualifications, pass the exam and stay up to date on continuing education.

What is one of the biggest falsehoods about trees?

The general public, and even most people in the green industry, believe a set of myths, one of those being that the roots go very deep into the ground. The roots are actually very close to the surface and extend well beyond the drip line, sometimes as much as three times the size of the canopy of the tree.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to preserve the trees in their own yard?

Involve an arborist early on. I much prefer the calls about starting a project. Unfortunately, our typical phone call is, “Hey, we have a tree problem. Come and fix it.”

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How seriously does root damage affect a tree?

Imagine someone running their boat across your anchor line. Then you’ve got a weak point because your anchor might pull up or the line might break. If somebody cuts all the roots off a side of the tree, it’s going to make that tree much more likely to fill in that opposite direction. Health problems are generally not seen right away. Depending on the severity of the damage, sometimes it can take a couple of years to see.

How can locals participate in Arbor Day?

People can pick up trees, have a little celebration and plant them on their property. If they are planted properly and in the right place, then they will really surprise people at how quickly they can grow. What happens with large trees that are transplanted is a significant portion of the roots are cut off in the process. The tree then spends an average of about one year per inch of caliber to reproduce the root system before it really actively starts growing. A small tree planted at the same time can actually pass the larger one.

Do you have any tips for growing trees?

The most important thing is to know what you are getting and its habits. You may have anything from a small bush all the way up to a tree that reaches up to 100 feet tall. When you know what type the tree is and what the size will ultimately be, you can plant for the future.

Mallory Boykin

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