Pruning To Promote Strong Branches

When weather events such as hurricanes or ice storms occur, some trees seem to be able to come through with only minor damage, while others suffer the loss of large limbs or sizable parts of their branching structure. In the worst cases, trees may be completely split in two or may have nothing left standing but a trunk.

Although trees weakened by disease are less likely to survive the stresses of damaging weather, proactive steps can be taken by landowners to help their trees be more resistant to this damage.

Here are five suggestions for pruning a tree to promote the growth of strong branches:

  1. Encourage good branch angles. For most broadleaf trees, narrow angles between When two branches grow closely together, neither
    has sufficient space to add the wood needed for strength.branches signal a point of future weakness, whether in the trunk or in the crown of the tree. This happens because as two branches grow closely together, neither has sufficient space to add the wood needed for strength. Instead, they grow against each other, creating a weak joint. The effect is similar to hammering in a wedge between them. To prevent this, remove one of the two branches when the tree is young.

     

     

    The ideal branching angle in many broadleaf tree
      species approximates 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock.For best branch strength, the ideal branching angle in many broadleaf tree species approximates 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock. Branches at those angles should be encouraged by removing competing but less desirable neighbors.

     

  2. Encourage strong branch/trunk size relationships. The relative size of lateral (side) branches is also important in determining branch strength. Ideally, lateral branches should be no more than 1/2 to 3/4 the diameter of the trunk. Branches larger than that are often heavier than the trunk can support, and are candidates to break when wind, ice, or snow come along. Trees grow by adding new layers of wood on the trunk and branches each year. As the trunk grows, it will strengthen the joints with branches by adding wood around it, like a dowel in a chair leg.

     

  3. Maintain a stable center of gravity. Wind, winter snow loads, or previous loss of a major limb canYou can help reposition a tree's center of gravity by selectively
    removing branches on the leaning side and encouraging branches on the opposite
    side. create situations where the tree's center of gravity is not positioned over the trunk. Then when a severe storm hits, a slight bit of extra weight or wind pressure can break limbs, snap the trunk off, or even topple the tree, roots and all. You can help reposition a tree's center of gravity by selectively removing branches on the leaning side and encouraging branches on the opposite side.

     

  4. Remove rubbing branches, suckers, watersprouts, and temporary branches. Branches that rub against each other produce wounds and decay. One of the offending branches should be removed.

    Watersprouts and suckers can occur at the base of the tree or inside the crown. They are rapidly Watersprouts and suckers can occur at the base of the tree or inside the
      crown. They are rapidly weakly attached, and upright branches that do not follow the tree's normal
      growth pattern.growing, weakly attached, and upright branches that do not follow the tree's normal growth pattern. On trees that have been severely damaged, these kinds of branches may be temporarily needed to provide foliage. In healthy trees, however, they most often use more energy than they return to the tree, and it is best to remove them as soon as possible.

    Temporary branches grow low on the tree when it is young and protect young bark from injury by the sun. After a tree is three to four years old, these temporary branches should be gradually removed.

    Because leaves are vital in providing the tree with nourishment, never remove more than one-third of a tree's leafy crown when pruning.

  5. Don't cut branches back to stubs. Often people have the mistaken idea that long natural limbs on If a branch needs to be removed, cut it back to a main branch or to the
      tree's trunk. Never leave a stub.a tree will break more easily in a storm, and should be cut back to make them stronger. Just the opposite is the case. When a branch is cut back to a stub, new branches will grow from the edges of the stub. Because they cannot form a strong union with the stubbed branch, these new branches are even more likely to be broken in a future storm.

    If a branch needs to be removed, cut it back to a main branch or to the tree's trunk. Never leave a stub.