Taking down the dying magnolia

There’s a magnolia in the northwest corner of the front yard, near the street, that is dying. It’s been dying for a long time. The crown is bare of leaves and the wood is brittle, sometimes breaking away in strong winds.

Steven hired Victor to muck out the back yard and take down the magnolia; it was textbook This Old House.

Several neighbors chatted as they walked past, as Victor took down the magnolia. Everyone was happy to see it go — it’s not native to Austin. The oaks will draw more water and light.

Here’s a photo essay.

Victor begins by trimming away as many low-hanging branches as he can reach, focusing on the middle of trunk, where several low-hanging limbs stretch widest, creating the most hazard.
Victor begins by trimming away as many low-hanging branches as he can reach, focusing on the middle of trunk, where several low-hanging limbs stretch widest, creating the most hazard. The magnolia still has green leaves in this middle range, but the crown is denuded, dead.
With the magnolia prepped, Victor cuts a series of wedges into the trunck, near the ground. The wedges take out a slice of wood in the direction he wants the tree to fall when it is cut and finally topples.
With the magnolia prepped, Victor cuts a series of wedges into the trunck, near the ground. The wedges take out a slice of wood in the direction he wants the tree to fall when it is cut and finally topples. Victor is wearing a dust mask and safety glasses.
After cutting away the wedges that are now opposite the camera, Victor used his chain saw to cut into the trunk at the side of the tree facing the camera. In the street, Victor and his brother Francisco pull taut a rope tied high around the tree that they will use to topple the tree.
After cutting away the wedges that are now opposite the camera, Victor used his chain saw to cut into the trunk at the side of the tree facing the camera. In the street, Victor and his brother Francisco pull taut a rope tied high around the tree that they will use to topple the tree.
First pull. The trunk snaps and begins to lean.
First pull. The trunk snaps and begins to lean.
Leaning.
Leaning.
Leaning.
Leaning.
The point of no going back.
The point of no going back.
Toppling.
Toppling.
The first branch touches ground.
The first branch touches ground.
Crash.
Crash. Actually more like a dull thunk. Anticlimactic.
Cutting down the tree exposes just how close it was to dying. The center of the trunk is soft, with no structure. The black ring indicates the division between live wood around the circumference and dead wood at the heart of the tree.
Cutting down the tree exposes just how close it was to dying. The center of the trunk is soft, with no structure. The black ring indicates the division between live wood around the circumference and dead wood at the heart of the tree.
The crown landed precisely where Victor planned -- on Dale's driveway next door. She was OK with the mess and taking out the tree, because she didn't want it toppling in a storm. Victor and Francisco quickly cleaned up the mess. All this wood from the crown of the magnolia was dead, brittle. It crumbled and snapped in our hands.
The crown landed precisely where Victor planned — on Dale’s driveway next door. She was OK with the mess and taking out the tree, because she didn’t want it toppling in a storm. Victor and Francisco quickly cleaned up the mess. All this wood from the crown of the magnolia was dead, brittle. It crumbled and snapped in our hands.
An example of how dead the crown of the tree was -- the main trunk just snapped away on its own as it hit the ground.
An example of how dead the crown of the tree was — the main trunk just snapped away on its own as it hit the ground.
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