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Ownership Determined by Position of Tree

A tree belongs to the person who planted it and in whose property its main trunk stands.  Generally, naturally grown trees are also the responsibility of the owner of the land on which they grow.  According to the law, the ownership and location of a tree has to be decided by the position of the trunk or body of the tree standing above the soil and not by the roots or branches.  In simple terms, the person on whose property the trunk stands is the owner of the tree.

In Weisel v. Hobbs, 138 Neb. 656 (Neb. 1940), plaintiff sought an injunction restraining defendants from cutting down a tree that provided shade for plaintiff’s home. Defendants cross-petitioned to require plaintiff to remove a garage they claimed encroached upon their lot.  After reviewing the evidence, the court found that the trunk of the tree encroached upon the lot line between the two properties and noted that the parties had jointly cared for the tree in the past. Therefore, the court held that both parties had an interest in the tree and found that a permanent injunction against the tree’s arbitrary destruction was warranted.  While deciding the case the Court stated that the ownership of a tree belongs to the owner of the land on which its trunk stands wholly, although its roots and branches extend into or over the land of another.

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