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Professional Tree Pruning – Why it Matters!


The health of existing trees hasn’t always been a high priority in our urban environment. In the past, there’s been the assumption that trees can easily be replaced if they become a problem.

However, times are changing, and with ongoing community concerns about climate change effects, the old solution to call in the cheapest tree lopper to ‘lop’ or chop down a tree is now not so much thought of as the best solution.

Large shady trees are greatly valued for their capacity to assist in cooling urban heat, and qualified arborists are in high demand to care for them. Poor tree maintenance can result in loss of tree health and structural stability and, potentially, the death of the tree. A professional arborist will be able to see the ‘bigger picture’ and provide a sensible management plan that will prolong the tree’s life while ensuring public safety. This could involve removing dead and declining branches, canopy lifting, corrective pruning for storm damage, risk reduction or increasing light and air flow through the canopy and so on.

Here are a just few important points your professional arborist may consider:

Tree identification

The interrelationship of all a tree’s parts is very complex, and your qualified arborist does not begin a pruning job without first identifying the tree species and understanding its growth habits. For example, each eucalyptus species has its own particular form of branching and canopy coverage that your trained arborist will be able to recognise.

The surrounding environment

When assessing a tree’s health, your arborist looks for any changes in the surrounding environment. If the tree is standing alone, were there nearby trees removed prior to development? A single tree that has grown up in a bare paddock can deal with exposed conditions better than a tree that was previously part of a forest, so the tree’s internal structure will be examined for clues to its strength. Photosynthesis occurs with sunlight, so any part of the tree usually exposed to the sun is going to be functioning extremely well.

Occupation of the target zone

The root and drip zone of a tree (the area stretching to the edge of the canopy) is fragile and any significant soil disturbance in this area can potentially harm the tree’s health. Your arborist will ask about the amount of ongoing ground compaction to determine what level of ongoing management is required. In low-use parking areas, the tree may be left to its own preservation developments. However, trees in higher-use zones are likely to require an ongoing management plan and be visited over a number of years to supervise crown regeneration attachment points.

New growth opportunities

Good tree management often requires suppressing the urge to fix everything in one visit. It will be necessary to consider the tree’s future development, structure and form in order to promote more choices for future management pruning. Your arborist will know it is not always necessary to remove the whole limb; potentially this can not only create a larger wound but it also means future pruning opportunities may be lost.

Wound healing

The condition of a tree’s bark is one of the most important factors affecting a tree’s health. Your arborist will ensure that the 3 point pruning method is used in order to prevent any tearing or stripping of bark. Achieving proper compartmentalisation around the living cell surrounding the wound hastens sealing, which helps the injury to heal properly and more effectively. Of course, strict hygiene practices are always used for cleaning tools between pruning to prevent the spread of pathogens and diseases.

Size of wounds

Growth generated on smaller stem parts also has the ability to function better and generate more stable and structural epicormic attachments. An epicormic shoot is one that sprouts from a bud underneath the bark of trunk, stem, or branch of a plant after a wound. Vertical stub ends will often develop a number of epicormic shoots in a ring around the wound; this creates competition for attachment space and leads to bark included attachments that are structurally unsound – a classic problem with tree lopping or topping.

Future management

In future visits, your arborist will check ends of cuts for growth rings; each ring acts as a laminate and makes the wood strong. Given enough time, an epicormic can become an endocormic, meaning reaction wood development has generated to 30 percent or more over the diameter of the original limb. At this point, the limb can be considered as structurally stable provided there are no inclusions – another technological term used in arboriculture.

Jim’s Trees arborist Jay Wagner said there was is much more to tree pruning than meets the eye. Jay is a Level 5 Arborist who recently joined our Brisbane South franchisee following six years experience in Forestry, 11 years in Arboriculture as a climbing arborist, and Arboriculture Planning Officer at Gold Coast City Council.

He said it is not uncommon to have to remove trees that have failed or become a serious risk to persons or property due to previously being ‘lopped’.

“My advice is to always engage a minimum AQF Level 3 Arborist or equivalent for a visual assessment and discussion on what you require to ensure the health and longevity of the trees health.
“Cheaper does not mean better,” he concluded.

Author: Gail Bruce

Gail is passionate about the restoration and preservation of Australia’s precious flora.

She has a Bachelor of Communication and Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management, and her work in local koala conservation was recognised when she was awarded Redland City Council’s Environment Award in 2000.

Gail is well known in Arborist circles, being a regular contributor to Australian Arbor Magazine, Redland City Bulletin, as well as Public Relations Officer for Redland Organic Growers Incorporated.

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