It’s not a pretty sight: trees with drooping, browned-off branches and gutters and lawns covered with dead leaves still clinging to the tips of broken branches. 

Those noisy cicadas have left their mark, known as flagging, on our beloved oak (and other) trees, but it’s not as bad as it looks. Unless the tree is very young and small, it will bounce back next year, especially if you make sure it gets enough water during dry periods in the coming months.
You may also notice large amounts of long strips of bark littering your yard. These have been shed by the sycamores or London plane trees that line many streets in our village. It’s a natural process, not an indication of disease.

Residents often worry that a tree will come down on their house in a storm. It’s true that pine trees tend to be shallow rooted and could come down when the ground is softened by a long rainy spell that includes high winds. Hardwood trees, on the other hand, may lean toward the light while still being solidly rooted and in no danger of toppling. That’s why always a good idea to consult a licensed arborist before asking to remove a tree.
However, some itinerant tree removal companies may take advantage of the situation to tell homeowners that the tree is dead and then, of course, offer to remove it at a bargain price. Before you agree to this, there are two things you need to know if you live in Oakland Mills:

1. Tree removal requires approval in advance from the Oakland Mills Architecture Committee Chairperson. To start the process, you submit an application to the Resident Architecture Committee (RAC), which you can download from the Oakland Mills Website.
This is an ironclad requirement of the Covenants that you agreed to when you closed on the purchase of your house—one of the pile of documents that you probably don’t remember signing, but it’s a precondition of buying property in Columbia.

2. In reviewing your application, RAC members will look at the tree to see if it is in fact diseased, dying, or in danger of falling onto your house. A Columbia Association expert may take a look at it. If removal is approved, it may stipulate that the tree must be replaced, especially if there are fewer than three trees left on the property.

The reason this requirement is embedded in our covenants is that James Rouse was passionate about trees. Back in the 1960s, developers simply bulldozed the entire area to make it easier to bring in construction equipment. Rouse, however, assigned a landscape architect to save every tree he possibly could. “Right behind the surveyors, he tramped through the project and tagged every tree where graders were to operate,” according to Columbia and the New Cities, by Gurney Breckenfeld. Fifty years later, we now know the importance of trees, not just for aesthetic reasons but also for their role in carbon capture
So before you remove a tree, please submit a request for alteration by going to the village website oaklandmills.org then, click on the heading Covenant Info and select Changes to Property. You can fill out the form and either mail it in or attach to an email.

For detailed advice on how to care for afflicted trees, check this article in the Washington Post by Adrian Higgins.