The Wind in the Willows, and Oaks, and Pines, and …

Upright Kidwell Farmhouse tree

March of 2018 came in like a lion, roaring with sustained winds of 25 to 30 miles an hour. Predictably, trees fell on power lines causing fires that Virginia Department of Forestry personnel worked hard to put out. News outlets reported on the mayhem falling trees caused – power outages, traffic snarls, property destruction and, unfortunately, some fatalities.  While the short-term focus in the emergency was on the death and destruction caused by several thousand falling trees, the long-term story is that hundreds of millions of trees did not fall.

Wood is strong and flexible; that is why humans have built with it for millennia. Not only have trees evolved to withstand strong winds, those winds make trees stronger. Just as lifting weights can trigger human muscle growth, swaying in the wind causes wood to grow. The alternating compression and tension on cells when a tree sways causes those cells to grow more wood. The result is the taper at the base of a tree.

Kidwell Farmhouse fallen tree 2018Most of the trees that fell during the early March 2018 windstorm did so because they were already dead or dying. Most people can recognize a dead tree, at least during the growing season. However, most people cannot recognize a dying tree. These before and after pictures show a tree at Frying Pan Farm Park that failed during the windstorm.  Last year it had leaves on it, but when it blew over, it revealed that its root system was rotten. Can you see the root rot in the standing tree? Look closely at the crown and notice the thinning of the leaves on the edges. To a trained eye, this is a sign of root problems. This is why trees, like pets and people, need to see their health care professionals regularly. Certified arborists are tree health care professionals.

The long-term story of the March windstorm is not that trees fell and caused mayhem. It is that strong healthy trees withstood the wind. And trees grow strong and healthy when they are properly cared for by professionals.

Author Jim McGlone is an Urban Forest Conservationist with the Virginia Department of Forestry. A version of this article ran on the VDOF blog at  Learn more about trees in Fairfax County in the blog, “Trees, Trees Everywhere…” at

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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