What is the difference between a tree surgeon and an arborist? When you want to find a local tree surgeon online, or in the yellow pages, one of the first things you notice is that 2 names seem to pop up – tree surgeon and arborist.

That’s just confusing for anybody not qualified to work professionally with trees.

A guide to tree surgeons and arborists

So, to help you contact the right person for the job without having to be a professional yourself we’ve put together this brief guide.  It looks at the similarities and differences between tree surgeons and arborists. There’s also some educational references if you want to deepen your understanding of the life, dangers, and potential diseases of trees in your garden.

But first a warning.

Warning – tree surgeons and arborists

The first warning is this – use your common sense. If you see a van with tree surgeon, arborist and scrap metal collection painted on the side there’s a good chance you won’t be dealing with either a qualified tree surgeon or qualified arboriculture consultant. The only qualification that individual is likely to have is the owning of a chain saw. Avoid. Find out more about what to look for here.

Cowboy traders always want to take short cuts but the professional tree and arboriculture industry has made a steady commitment to professional standards.

Professionalisation of the tree industry

It’s been a long road to professionalize the tree industry for tree surgeons and arborists. There have been some important ‘acts of god’, acts of parliament and educational milestones along the way, including:

  • The employment of tree officers in each local authority beginning in the 1970’s. Today most local authorities have dedicated arboricultural offices and staff to consider planning, TPOs (Tree Preservation Orders), tree maintenance and planting
  • The great storm of 1987 which focused everybody’s attention on the often destructive power of falling trees
  • The publication of The Body Language of Trees: A Handbook for Failure Analysis in1995
  • The publication of The Principles of Tree Hazard Assessment and Management in 1999
  • The publication of Diagnosis of Ill-health in Trees in 2000. This included pathogens specific to the UK. This book covered virtually all known tree problems in the UK. It included the prevention and treatment of disease and pests, tree safety and the problem of decay and tree disease legislation
  • The discovery of Chalara Ash Dieback disease and subsequent guidance from the Forestry Commission

Tree surgeons and arborists – the difference

Now, competent tree surgeons and arboriculture consultants or arborists will be aware of the science and legalities of tree ownership. The difference between the 2 is likely to be the main focus of their work

A tree surgeon will concentrate on

  • Physical pruning, felling and clearance of trees and shrubs
  • Emergency tree work
  • Stump grinding
  • Site clearance

And will have specific training and education in chainsaw use, tree climbing, and the practicalities of health and safety during tree work.

An arboricultural consultant will have a particular interest in reports and plans:

  • Arboricultural Method Statements (AMS) – reports detailing i.e how building development is likely to impact on the roots or life of nearby trees
  • Arboricultural Impact Assessments (AIA) – reports looking at managing the impact of building development
  • Topographical surveys
  • Tree protection plans

And will have specific training and education in tree science, biology and ecological management.

So, you can see, there are 2 professionals to make your home or garden a safer, healthier, more beautiful space.

Do you need a more academic or scientific look at your property or do you just want somebody to focus on the physical management of the trees?

At Ashley we mostly focus on tree surgery – it’s what we’re trained, qualified and insured for.

Enjoy your garden!