Are Your Trees Victims of Bad Pruning?
February 21, 2018
Spring storms are on the way...in fact, they are already here. Storms have a way of testing your trees and quickly exposing weakness you may have never noticed. A seemingly healthy tree can be severely damaged by extreme weather. Upon closer inspection though, trees damaged by weather have often been the victim of bad pruning.
It’s tempting to hire the “cheap guy” with the chainsaw and a truck...it’s just tree pruning, right? Good tree pruning might not seem all that complicated, until your trees are damaged beyond repair by business operators who aren’t qualified to do the job the correctly .
How do you know if your trees have been badly pruned? Here are a few important red flags:
Your Trees Look Like a Stalk of Broccoli: Lion’s Tailing is a practice that leaves your trees looking like a stalk of broccoli. A tall branchless main trunk with a wide canopy left at the top of the tree. This happens when too many interior and lower branches are removed, leaving a bare trunk and the ends of branches full of leaves.
Many times, unskilled tree care companies will raise the canopy of a tree too high in order to direct more sunlight to plants and lawn planted at the base of the tree. When a tree is stripped of much of its interior lateral branches and foliage, it severely weakens the tree by reducing photosynthesis and nutrient delivery. It also displaces weight to the ends of branches; when we get heavy rain or ice these unevenly weighted branches can snap.
Topping: Topping involves cutting away a large section of the top of a tree's crown, or all the leafing branches across the top half of the tree. What you're left with is a very ugly, deformed specimen with severely weakened structure. Often times, people will top a tree because it becomes too large for the space; which is why it is so important to choose the correct plant for the correct location.
Most often in North Texas, you will see topping performed on crape myrtles, referred to as “crape murder”. It’s a myth that this type of pruning increases flowering. Healthy crape myrtles growing in full sun conditions will bloom heavily without any such pruning. What topping does do is produce an unsightly tree. You’ll also see topping performed on trees near power lines. Another good reason to plant the right tree in the right place.
Thinned Trees: Trees are adversely affected if too much of the canopy is removed at one time. This is one of the most common pruning mistakes and it has many consequences. A maximum of 15% to 20% of a mature tree's foliage should be trimmed off at one time. In fact, 5%-10% is usually adequate. If more canopy is removed at one time, the tree becomes unable to photosynthesize & make food properly, basically stunting the tree’s overall growth. Sunscald, increased risk of wind damage, and excessive wounding are also caused by over-pruning and over-thinning.
Bad tree pruning can cause permanent damage to your trees. It can even kill them. Always have your trees evaluated by a certified arborist before you have them pruned.
Posted: February 21, 2018