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Pruning for Longer-Lived, Stronger Trees


All pruning is not the same. There are multiple ways to prune trees and any time you make a cut, it’s considered pruning. Unlike regular pruning which focuses on aesthetics or removing dead branches, structural pruning is all about shaping a tree's framework for future growth. It's kind of like training a young puppy - by addressing potential problems early on, you can ensure a strong and healthy adult tree and hopefully avoid problems that can turn dangerous in the future.


Structural pruning

So what is structural pruning and how can it benefit your own trees? Below we'll discuss the ways we can structurally prune to shape trees for a lifetime of health and beauty.


Vulnerable Branch Unions: Addressing Co-dominant Junctions

Imagine a tree with two main branches competing for dominance. This "co-dominant junction" creates a weak point where the branches meet. Over time, the included bark (the V-shaped area between the branches) becomes prone to splitting under pressure during storms. Structural pruning identifies these junctions and removal, or reducing the length of one of the branches, encourages the development of a single, strong leader as the remaining stem grows stronger and faster. 



A co-dominant junction is prone to splitting. Reducing the length or removal of one of the two stems will allow the other to grow to become the dominant central stem.

(A co-dominant junction is prone to splitting. Reducing the length or removal of one of the two stems will allow the other to grow to become the dominant central stem.)


Example of a strong central leader on a tree. There are no co-dominant junctions.

(Example of a strong central leader on a tree. There are no co-dominant junctions.)


Lightening the Load: Weight Reduction for Stability

Heavy branches become a liability during storms. Structural pruning helps manage a tree's weight distribution. By selectively removing overly large branches, the arborist lightens the load on the main structure, reducing the risk of branch failure under heavy snow or wind. Shortening the length of long horizontal branches is another option that we commonly use. This makes the tree stouter and stronger and can greatly reduce the chance of breakage at the end. 


Reducing Density: The Sail Effect

Have you ever noticed a tree swaying wildly in a storm? That dramatic movement is partly due to the sail effect. A dense canopy acts like a giant sail, catching the wind and putting immense stress on the trunk and branches. Strategic structural pruning can help mitigate this. By selectively removing branches and thinning the canopy, we can reduce the wind resistance the tree experiences. This not only lessens the strain during storms but also promotes a stronger, more balanced growth habit in the long run.  


Before and after of structural pruning on ornamental tree.

Friction Fighters: Eliminating Rubbing and Weakened Branches

Branches that rub against each other can create wounds, making them susceptible to disease and weakening the overall structure. Structural pruning can identify and remove these branches, preventing further damage and promoting healthy growth.


Investing in the Future

Structural pruning isn't just about aesthetics; it's a long-term investment in the health and beauty of your trees. A properly pruned tree is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also:


  • Less susceptible to storm damage

  • Less likely to require emergency removals

  • Healthier overall, with improved resistance to disease


By giving your trees the gift of structural pruning, you're ensuring they can continue to grace your landscape for generations to come. Remember, a little planning and professional care can go a long way in protecting your trees and creating a safer, more beautiful environment. Call Hoppe Tree Service at 414-257-2111 or request a visit with one of our Certified Arborists to see if your trees can benefit from structural pruning.




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