Appraised Value of Trees and Landscapes

Tree appraisals are in high demand. Determining a tree or plant’s value is often at the center of legal disputes arising from a weather event, insurance claims or a matter of eminent domain.

Over 47 Years of Trusted Experience


Tree appraisals have become a revenue source for many arborists and associated professionals; a big revenue source. Appraising the value of a tree is big business. You have a lot of companies and individuals from which to choose.

Expert Tree Consultants have a proven track record of over 47 years of successfully appraising and defending the appraised value of trees and landscapes.

Consider that we have authored the formula for appraising the value of trees that is a part of Florida statues. We have taught tree appraisals at four International Society of Arboriculture Annual Conferences, and over eighty-five state annual conferences. Our lectures on tree appraisals have been presented under the peer reviewed requirements of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in Florida and seventeen other states. Lori Ballard is on the Board of Directors of the Association of Eminent Domain Professionals (AEDP), an organization that is in existence to appraise property and, among other things, trees and landscapes when the government seizes your property for purposes of a road widening project or other public betterments.

Joe Samnik is a past president of the AEDP. Both Lori and Joe have defended their valuation opinions in over seven hundred litigation matters, including civil, criminal, eminent domain and federal courts of law. Appraising a tree or landscape is the easy part of an assignment. Defending that opinion is a completely different experience.

When selecting somebody to appraise your trees, be it a tree farm, nursery, or tree code mitigation, you have a tremendous amount of sources from which to consider but only one logical choice.

Turn to a trusted source.


No plant appraisal assignment requires more skill, knowledge, training and combined horticulture knowledge than appraising a tree farm or plant nursery.  And the deep end of the pool is eminent domain (especially if there is a partial Taking) and product liability.  The former requiring the appraiser to make whole the client and the latter a hide and go seek format in data collection and evidence.

The plant (including trees) appraiser’s first obstacle is how to value a plant that has no value in the marketplace.  Not 100% of plants are ready for sale in any given wholesale nursery at any given time.  There are different stages of development that a plant must go through to become ready for market.  The problem comes when the plant is at one end of the development scale or the other; either just a seedling or within a few months of maturity.  And everything in between. The law has definitive rulings on just how to appraise such developmental stages of growth.  And the plant expert must be able to testify as to the correct approach to each development stage of growth.  This is a contact sport.  Put in your mouth piece.

Further, the plant appraiser must be able to quantify and qualify the costs of producing each plant size; from soup to nuts, the math and knowledge of producing plants is formidable.  And the subject nursery operation is never the same from grower to grower.  The plant appraiser must be able to separate what is being claimed by the grower and the truth and facts.  When people are scared they tend to state what they think the appraiser wants to hear.  Many times the truth lies elsewhere.  The plant appraiser must know where to find these facts so that just compensation may be established by the trier of fact.

The rate of turn-over in inventory must be established and published. An opinion of value must include how many times in a given time period a particular plant sells and the growing cycle renews.  This cycle is necessary to establish values into perpetuity.

What maintenance practices are being employed is crucial to the opinion of value.  The chemicals used and their set-back requirements by label instructions must be known.  The methods of pest control, including weed control is crucial in the understanding of how the business is being professionally operated.  Is there waste?  Is there efficacy?  And what of quality of the plant material, is that a factor in placing a value on a plant.

I’m not at all certain there exists more than a ½ dozen arborists in our nation that are truly qualified to appraise a plant/tree nursery.  I know of one other than myself, and I’m still learning; so is the other person.  My history includes 50 years of practice in the trade and a former nursery owner as well.   As a professional I was fortunate enough to be trained in nursery appraisals by one of the nation’s foremost property rights attorneys. Over the decades I’ve had the good fortune to be trained by scores of other property rights attorneys.  My collegiality are trained by other arborists.  In a group of those trainers at a recent international conference I posed the simple question to them: just how many of you guys have defended your opinions of value in a court of law?  How many depositions?  Not one hand went up.  Not one of the trainers had ever been to court or deposition.  And these are the good professionals training other arborists how to appraise a nursery and trees and plants.

Caveat emptor is now gently offered advise to the fine and gifted attorneys who defend and prosecute those clients looking for just compensation in the valuation of trees and plants.

Posted in Appraisals

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The Great Pancake House Summit Meeting

Oh lo, how many years have passed since one of the country’s leading property rights attorneys asked me to meet with him and his assistant to go over my deposition prior to giving it.  He was the lead property rights attorney for Florida’s oldest law firm.  He was located over 400 miles away, and wanted me to meet him at a pancake house at 5:00 AM.  My deposition was at 9:00 AM the same day.  The matter evolved around the governments taking of private property for public use – eminent domain – which may be found under Article 5 of the Bill of Rights.  The issue of eminent domain is, and was, so crucially important to our founding fathers that the same number of jurors required for capital murder is also required for eminent domain trials.  When you work in the field of eminent domain you are working in the literal heartbeat of our constitution.

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Of Trends, Science and Chickens

Trends are fascinating and exhilarating phenomena.  They allow pundits the opportunity to pontificate upon things which may never happen but are nonetheless given great credence due to the expertise of the pontificator.  Trends tend to focus on the minutia of a far greater whole, and more likely than not are short-lived.  Trends are fun to watch and a delight to participate in.  Trends define goals and give us hope to better ourselves and our communities. We want to become a trendsetter due to its elitism and social stature.  We want to follow trendsetters because there’s safety in numbers.  But lurking in the hallowed halls of this intermittent euphoria lays danger.  Nothing can disappear quicker than Elvis Presley sideburns then to follow a trend and ignore the science behind it.

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A Matter of Emphasis

A couple of decades ago I hung a picture on my office wall.  I hung it there at the beginning of my career in appraising trees and plants.  The caption under the picture reads, “Do you want your assessment to show how much your tree is worth, or how little it is worth – it’s a matter of emphasis”.  Setting aside the naïveté of the statement, the question remains the matter of emphasis in the approach used to valuation – and the ethical repercussions which ensue.

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Have you ever heard the name Donna Massie?  How about Tom McCrum?  The former holds the dubious distinction of having identified the very first Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) in Worchester, Mass.  Already 1,800 trees have been tagged for removal on 62 square miles surrounding Worcester and four neighboring towns.  Tom McCrum is with the Massachusetts Maple Syrup Association and joins economists and politicians in the nightmare scenario that would follow into the tourism and timber industry if the ALB encroached further from its current foothold.  Approximately $268 million has been spent on eradication efforts during the last eleven years.

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