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.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

greg v
greg v
Great team and very professional, they efficiently took down some large older trees that were dying and hanging over my house and in very difficult positions while also requiring them to manage traffic, I will definitely use them again in the future
Peter Kelly
Peter Kelly
I would give 6 Stars if I could. This is the third time I've used Justin and his crew of Arbortech. He and his crew go above and beyond in the services they provide. They do all, and then some, of what I contracted them to do. His crew is personable, professional, and tidy. They left my place cleaner than when they got here. Can't say enough. Use them. You won't be disappointed.
Tracy Cole
Tracy Cole
Great job…nice clean up!! Will use them again!!!
Roger Leardi
Roger Leardi
These guys are professionals. They came when they said they would, they were quick, neat and professional. They did exactly what they quoted. The crew was polite and friendly. I was super pleased with the service and would highly recommend them if you need tree service.
Venus Dickson
Venus Dickson
Arbor tech and their crew were amazing!!! Not only did I not have to wait a long time to schedule the work, but they also came on time the day of. The crew were friendly, professional and helpful. They went above and beyond what I expected them to do. They even cleaned up afterwards as if they weren’t even there. The price I was quoted was reasonable and they did not charge more than was quoted. The whole experience was fantastic. I will be using them in the future. I highly recommend them! You will not be disappointed.
Pamela Hayden
Pamela Hayden
Absolutely the very best. They arrived on time. The yard was taken care of and left in perfect shape. They did everything we asked ……we will definitely be using them again. The gentlemen doing the job were pleasant and professional.
Richard Roy
Richard Roy
All aspects of our experience with Arbortech were beyond expectation (5+ stars at all levels). From the scheduling process and ongoing coordination and discussions with Lindsey to the onsite discussions with Justin, and finally with the crew while the work was being done, we couldn't be happier. They listened, they provided insight to our project while remaining very sensitive to our privacy concerns with the trimming of our pines. In an evolving world where a lot of customer care seems to have vanished, we are grateful we found a company where it seems to be a core component of their values. HIGHLY RECOMMEND
Edward Figiela
Edward Figiela
That are a great company to work with would recommend them to all!!
Greer Cunningham
Greer Cunningham
From start to finish our experience with Arbortech was wonderful! Lindsey was extremely responsive and worked with us to set up both the estimate and schedule the work. She even communicated with our neighbor to coordinate the timing as we needed to use their driveway for the job. Justin came promptly to look at our trees, explained our options in a very clear an professional way, and gave us an extremely fair estimate. The guys who came and did the work did a really great job and cleaned up everything afterwards, so we (and our neighbor) were very happy. They were also very friendly and gracious even though they were working during a crazy heat wave- they appreciated the popsicles I gave them! I highly recommend Arbortech Tree Service!