Why Prune?

Why should I have the trees in my yard pruned?

This is an often asked question.  After all, trees growing in the forest aren’t pruned by anyone, and they seem to grow just fine.   Well, the answer lies in the fact that trees within the urban landscape are under much different set of circumstances than natural forest trees.  Therefore landscape trees grow much differently.

In the forest, the competition between trees causes them grow fast and tall to reach the sunlight before neighboring trees choke them out.  It becomes a race to the sky.  Forest trees put their resources into growing up towards the limited light resource rather than outwards.  This creates tall skinny trees with little side branching and very little interior branching. 

Trees in our urban landscape settings tend to be planted with ample room around them, allowing them to develop full crowns.  Sunlight is all around them, therefore branches grow outwards as well as upwards.  The canopies can also become thick with interior branches that often times crossing and rubbing each other.  As the tree matures, the crowded interior growth often times becomes shaded and dead branches can result.  This full sunlight, type of growth can put different stresses on trees which can cause numerous types of problems, which then become amplified when they are close to a target such as a building, power line, or parking lot. 

Besides the sunlight issue, urban landscape trees also confront another major issue.  That is, the effects of human intervention.   We may have the best of intentions, but often human activities can cause major stresses on trees, leading to the need for pruning out of dead and unhealthy growth.  These issues include improper planting, improper plant selection, soil compaction, or soil grade changes which alter water flow to the tree.

Regular proper pruning of urban landscape trees, starting while they are young will give a tree a strong, well built, and attractive structure.  Properly pruned trees can live longer, with less serious insect and disease issues, and are better able to cope with punishing winds and the weight of snow and ice. 

Below is a list of what types of branches are typically pruned out of a tree to create a healthy structure.

1.       Dead branches- they can be a source of insect and diseases, and larger dead branches can be a safety issue.

2.       Rubbing, or criss-crossing branches- these branches become weak and may break, or become an entry point for insect or diseases.

3.       Interfering branches- branches that may be hanging down too low, or getting too close to buildings or other structures.

4.       Large horizontal branches- excessive weight leads these types of branches to break.  Often times these branches are cut back to a suitable side branch to alleviate the weight, and therefore the risk of heavy limb failure.

August Hoppe

Certified Arborist WI-0477A

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