There are many different reasons to prune your trees, especially in the big city environment. But what are people thinking when pruning trees until there’s just a trunk, limbs and maybe a branch or two with five leaves dangling from the tip?
It’s hurricane season and the door knockers are out pushing the gimmicky, must have “hurricane pruning.” While it’s important to prune your trees for air movement, light and to reduce loads where necessary, there’s nothing good that comes from stripping trees within one short dry spell of their life. A very basic understanding of tree physiology can help you make good decisions for your trees and not be misled by those looking to make a quick buck.
Photosynthesis is the process in which a tree uses energy from the sun and carbon dioxide from the air to produce it’s own food for growth and maintenance. These sugars are formed in the leaves of the tree and then moved to other areas for growth, repair and storage. Therefore, removing too many leaves can actually starve a tree making it incapable of defending itself against insects and disease. As a rule of thumb, don’t remove more than 15% of live crown per pruning. This is also a good reason not to extend your pruning cycle beyond 2 years where larger amounts may need to be removed, which in turn, causes more stress to the tree. Simply put, healthy trees withstand storms better than stressed and diseased trees.
Removing tree branches can reduce a heavy load but must be done with care. If too many branches are removed or stripped out, the limb reacts differently in the wind which could result in failure. Branches allow the tree to absorb energy from the wind by moving in many directions. They are surrounded by a stronger, parent limb tissue at the base which creates taper and strengthens both the branch and the limb as a whole. Lion’s tailed or stripped limbs typically move only back forth which can lead to breakage. Over pruning also makes it more difficult for the tree to translocate carbohydrates and starches that are necessary to close or compartmentalize wounds. Keeping good limb and branch structure throughout the canopy is very important to overall health.
Drastic pruning is usually without good reason and probably won’t help in the event of a tornado or hurricane force winds anyway. Hire a certified arborist to inspect your trees so you can make an informed decision on how to reduce the risks while keeping your trees naturally beautiful. It’ll save you money and your trees will love you for it!