What Are Tree Support Systems?

Written by Fred Hoppe, Board Certified Master Arborist WI-0556B, Certified Tree Care Safety Professional 00036, and ISA Qualified Tree Risk Assessor; and John Sepulveda, Certified Arborist WI-1454A


When trees have minor or moderate defects, too often they are removed. Removal or pruning to correct issues like a weak union or overextended branches aren’t the only options. Tree support systems such as cabling or bracing can support the weak unions or branches enough to reduce the likelihood of failure. These supports are not limited to mature trees. In some cases, young trees can also benefit from staking or guying.


What Tree Support Systems Do

Support systems are often believed to hold trees together and prevent failure. However, support

systems only assist with limiting movement of the branches or stems they connect. They don’t hold the branches together but connect them and allow them to move together. By moving together the branches put less stress on these weak unions and are less likely than unsupported branches to split or rip off.


Support systems can also help to prolong the life of a tree by helping to prevent damage to the tree that could leave a wound that is large and not likely to heal over before decay can set in. If the tree were to lose a large section due to a split, this would open the tree up to decay and rot or other diseases and pests. These issues can typically be avoided by frequent structural pruning while the tree is young.


When Young Trees Need Support

Typically, newly planted trees will not need any support, and we avoid using them because it can slow tree establishment. When the wind moves a tree’s canopy the tree releases hormones that cause growth and strengthening in spots where the tree is bending. However, some trees have poor root systems, are top heavy due to an undersized root ball, or have challenging soil characteristics. In this case, stakes and webbing can help keep them upright. They should be removed before the tree grows into them or they can cause girdling.


It is always important to consult a certified arborist when considering support systems. Improper set up or use can lead to failure and cause damage or even severe injury. Not all deficits can be corrected by these systems and may require alternative methods to avoid failure.


Hoppe's certified arborists are expert at identifying the need for tree support systems and installing the proper solution. To set up a visit to your yard by one of our arborists, contact us today at 414.257.2111 or request a quote.


Since 1972, Hoppe Tree Service has been taking care of people and their trees. Join us as we celebrate 50 years of service to great customers in southeastern Wisconsin.



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