If a tree falls during the night but no one heard it, did it fall? Yes.

tree outside my bedroom door
Wait a minute! This doesn't look right.

| There have been high winds for the past two days. So this morning when I heard a small crash from the patio I assumed it was one of my patio chairs being knocked over by the wind. Which it was. I was not, however, prepared for what I saw when I rolled over in my bed to look out the window and check on the coming dawn.

Mesquite tree that fell during the night
Mesquite tree, recumbent

During the night one of the four mesquite trees that line the back of my lot toppled over and now rests crosswise the yard.

No, I did not hear it fall, even though the bedroom slider was open. Several weeks ago I began taking melatonin each night to counteract my tendency to wake several times during the night. And it works wonderfully. Whereas I was waking six, seven, eight times a night before, and often unable to go back to sleep, I now sleep deeply through the entire night. The tree must have made a racket when it hit the aluminum pergola along the back of the house, but I didn't hear a thing.

Mesquite trees are notorious for sending out lateral roots, and mine are no exception. The errant roots are just below the surface and have wreaked havoc with the irrigation pipes, requiring numerous repairs.

In fact, I was preparing to repair a new break caused by a root of the fallen tree. It had pushed the pipe completely up out of the ground and snapped it at a coupling. The root was directly in the path of where the pipe was laid. As I considered how to repair it, it seemed like the easiest thing would be to saw a section out of the root and rejoin the pipes. But what if the tree falls over, I worried. Nah, that one root can't be what's holding the tree up.

So, I cut the root and had gotten spare parts to repair the line, something I intended to do after Thanksgiving. But then it got miserably cold and windy, so I put it off.

And now the tree is lying on the ground.

The top of the tree is resting against the pergola — it appears to have suffered no damage. The novelty of the tree in this new location inspired all the birds in the neighborhood to come check it out. At one point I counted five different types of birds all flitting and hopping around in the now horizontal branches.

root ball, or lack thereof
The root ball. Or specifically, the lack of roots. The entire root system was within 24 inches of the surface of the ground. The root that I cut turns out to be the largest of the three. Who knew?

On closer inspection of the base of the tree, I was shocked to see that the tree really only had three roots: one that went uphill and under the fence at the back (that I cut), and two more that went on each side. Where deep roots should have been, there are root hairs! The entire root system extended less than 24 inches into the ground!

I'm waiting for an estimate from the tree removal guy.

The bothersome thing is that there are three more mesquite trees, and I'm willing to bet they are the same way. The roots of two of them have already come to the surface and broken the irrigation line. There's no reason to suppose that the last one is any different.

I'm tempted to have them all taken out before they fall; if they were to fall sidewise, rather than down into my yard, they would destroy one, two, or three fences.

Last updated on Nov 28, 2017

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