How Flooding Affects Trees and Their Health

Published On: July 27th, 20233.3 min read

It’s been a wet rainy summer here in Connecticut, bringing flooding and increased water loads to some residents. Flooding may cause direct damage to trees by changing soil conditions, interrupting normal oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange between trees and their environment, sedimentation, and physical damage.

This article covers how flooding affects trees and how to handle any potential damage or related issues.

Identifying Flood Stress in Trees

Trees that are flood-stressed exhibit a range of symptoms that may include:

  • Leaf chlorosis (yellowing), followed by leaf loss.
  • Reduced leaf size.
  • Early fall coloration and leaf drop.
  • Water sprouts or small shoots emerge from the main stem.
  • Crown dieback.
  • Large seed crops or no seed crops in years following a flood.

Timing of Flooding

Trees are more likely to be damaged by flooding during the growing season than during the dormant season. Trees are most susceptible to flood damage in late spring, just after the first flush of growth. Tree species begin their spring flush at different times, so the timing of a flood influences the species that are likely to be damaged.

Types of Flood Damage:

Soil Changes

Water covering the soil reduces the supply of oxygen to tree roots. Roots must have oxygen to survive and grow. Well-drained soils are ideal for trees, allowing water to drain at one inch per hour. Poorly-drained soils, on the other hand, retain water for prolonged periods, depriving roots of oxygen.


Sediments carried by the water and deposited over the roots reduce the oxygen supply to tree roots. Even as little as three inches of sediment can be harmful. Tree species vary in their tolerance to sedimentation, but all seedlings are susceptible to root injury from deposition.


Flooding increases the pH of acidic soils and decreases the pH of alkaline soils. Tree species vary in their pH tolerance.


The decomposition rate of organic matter in flooded soil tends to be only half that in unflooded soil. The primary end products of the decomposition of organic matter in saturated ground are carbon dioxide, methane, and humic materials. High ethanol and hydrogen sulfide concentrations produced in waterlogged soil can damage tree roots.

Chemical Damage

Floodwaters may contain chemicals from urban areas or agricultural fields that may harm trees when absorbed by their roots.

Physical Damage

Strong currents, waves, or suspended particles may cause soil around the base of trees to be washed away, exposing their roots. Exposed roots can stress trees and make them more vulnerable to being uprooted or broken by wind (windthrow or blowdown). Ice flows and debris from rushing waters can remove bark and damage tissues, leading to wood stains and decaying organisms. Flood waters that cover foliage on lower branches will interfere with photosynthesis and gas exchange, leading to the death of those branches.

When to Call a Tree Company After Flooding

After experiencing flooding, it is crucial to assess your trees’ condition promptly. While some minor tree care tasks can be managed independently, calling a professional tree company is necessary in specific situations. Here are the instances when it’s best to seek the expertise of a tree services company:

Major Tree Damage

If you notice significant tree damage, such as uprooting, broken branches, or significant leaning, seeking assistance from a tree company is essential. Professional arborists have the expertise and equipment to safely handle damaged trees and determine the best action, whether it involves tree removal or restorative measures.

Pest Infestations or Diseases

Contacting a tree services company is crucial if you suspect pest infestations or diseases in your trees following flooding. Tree experts can accurately diagnose the issues and implement appropriate treatments to safeguard the health of your trees.

Replanting and Restoration

If replanting or restoring trees in the affected area is necessary, professional arborists can guide selecting flood-resistant tree species and ensure proper planting techniques for successful tree establishment. By calling a tree company after flooding, you can confirm the appropriate care and recovery of your trees, safeguarding your landscape’s health and longevity.

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Kyle LeDonne
Kyle LeDonne
Fast, friendly service, definitely recommended. Great follow through, work was completed on time and with minimal damage to the lawn. Lindsey and Justin were awesome!
Ann Caranci
Ann Caranci
We had the A-team on our big job of 14+ trees (13 dead ash) in 3 different areas of our property, none of which were particularly easy to get to. With the added bonus of having drainage throughout the yard and avoiding the septic tank. I had 3 other companies come and look, one ghosted me!! 1 came and said no thank you, the third gave me a similar quote to Justin's, but you could tell he didn't want the job and wasn't as clear about how he'd go about it. Justin came in and was completely confident on how his team could get it done. And with a bucket truck - no cranes needed. (two of the above were talking cranes). Kyle, Kyle and Not Kyle (Cody) were great!! They worked hard and got it all done in 3 days!! They were nice, easy to talk to, piled the massive amount of trees in a great spot for the log truck. I thought taking down dead trees wouldn't open things up that much, but wow did it! I love how open and cleared out everything looks!! Lindsey and Kate were fabulous and accommodating talking about the cost of the job and log truck. And now I can add flowers and plants in the brighter area. FYI probably not going to plant trees... but some rhodies if I can keep the deer off them. (O: Thank you to ArborTech!! Cheers, until I can budget for the backyard.
Gabe Godfrey
Gabe Godfrey
The tree estimate and removal process had a quick turnaround (one week) and was coordinated around my schedule. Very accommodating. The team that showed up for the job was very professional and asked questions along the way to better meet my needs. Very affordable and highly recommend to anyone needing work done with trees!
Dawn Bradshaw
Dawn Bradshaw
I more than appreciate great workers...your crew is amazing! the physical ability, the mathematical knowledge even if innate, and the eye for art (cleaning up my white pines to beautiful trees) is a hard combo to find in someone. Your climber has all those skills and more. Your pricing was very reasonable! The care your crew took to ensure everything was clean and in better condition than when they came was more than apreciated by me. Even my neighbors said something! Thank you! I will call you again for future tree maintenance!
Ursula Wiebusch
Ursula Wiebusch
We enjoy working with the Arbortech team, from start to finish. Professional and respectful. We just had 8, 100 ft + trees removed and could not be happier with the results. We recommend Arbortech.
Arbortech is a great business to deal with. They did a big job quickly, professionally, and left our property in good condition. Lindsey, Justin, and their crews were all terrific. Highly recommend.
Laura Flavell
Laura Flavell
I needed to have a large Norway maple tree removed and wanted to get at least three estimates. Eric's tree service came out and gave me a somewhat reasonable quote of $3500, then a week later before I had gotten another estimate from a different company Eric's tree service texted me and said they'd be in the area the following week, I called them and they said they had to revisit the estimate. They came back out continued to tell me her personal problems and that my neighbor would have to move his trailer. She then sent me a new quote of $7231!!! I called Arbortech and Justin came over on the day scheduled and was my most reasonable quote! He also said my neighbor wouldn't need to move his trailer. Justin and his crew arrived on time and did a phenomenal job!! They are true professionals! They cleaned up everything. They had had to remove a fence panel and when they put it back it was more secure than it had been when it had been originally installed. Justin's quote was $4700 less than Eric's! This experience with Arbortech was purely positive I highly recommend this company! Thank you Justin, Lindsey and the rest of the crew, you guys rock!!
ILost MyShoe
ILost MyShoe
The service I received from everyone at Arbortech for a tree removal was absolutely wonderful. Any questions and concerns I had were answered and reassured. Justin and Lindsey were both so helpful and the value I paid for this service was outstanding. Super reasonable, and I would recommend Arbortech to anyone in need of any tree service. Super grateful and happy. If I could figure out how to add pictures to my review, I would. They did an incredible job with not just the tree removal itself, but also with a brush pile I also had taken care of. Again, highly recommend Arbortech for anyone who is in need of any type of tree service. Couldn’t be more pleased!