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One of the more frequently administered care practices for mature trees is pruning.  Pruning mature trees has a much different emphasis as compared to younger trees. Individual tree branches of younger, established trees put out more incremental annual woody growth per growing shoot and put out larger foliage relative to mature trees.   Often younger tree pruning is more focused on establishing a sound structure for future growth. As trees mature we want to maintain or improve tree structure for health and safety concerns.

The types of pruning required for trees are specified in the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) A300 pruning standards. The objectives, as defined, are to maintain or improve tree health and/or reduce hazards associated with the tree and its surroundings. The types of pruning defined include: 1) crown cleaning 2) crown thinning 3) crown reduction 4) crown restoration 5) crown raising and 6) vista pruning.

Crown cleaning removes dead or dying wood and helps to eliminate a hazard condition

Crown cleaning of mature trees involves the removal of dead, dying or weak branches and the removal of inner canopy growth that is not efficient /structurally sound for the tree.   Thinning of some inner canopy growth of mature trees can help direct tree energy inputs to the outer part of the canopy where greater photosytheticoutputs can be achieved. As a result the tree can have a greater carbohydrate reserve from which to draw upon for growth and insect/disease defense. Dead or dying wood tends to develop in mature trees as a result of insect and/or disease attack, injury or shading of limbs. The ability of trees to withstand these types of injury begins to decrease at some point. This is because the internal chemical components needed by a tree to resist attack and produce new wood in reaction to these issues start to become more limited. The huge mass of the tree relative to photosynthetic capabilities needed to produce these materials restricts the ability to respond to these needs. Dead limbs are a safety issue if there is a target (human, car, etc.) that is potentially capable of being damaged by deadwood falling from trees.  Safety is one of the most common and compelling reasons to prune mature trees.

Crown thinning may be necessary to improve light penetration and air circulation through the crown. Thinning can also improve tree structure by removing inferior, crossing or subordinate branches.

Crown reduction or shaping of a mature tree decreases the “footprint” of a tree. This type of pruning may be useful when a mature tree has outgrown its growing environment and is having difficulty sustaining itself. This may be due to insufficient soil volume for root development or when the tree can no longer maintain itself at its maximum height without dieback due to its size and age. Crown reduction may also be needed to keep the tree canopy away from structures. Crown reduction is sometimes utilized to improve a view or “vista”. Vista pruning is a type of pruning where specific parts of the trees canopy are selectively removed in order to maintain a desired view.

Crown raising may be necessary to allow passage of vehicular or pedestrian traffic under the tree. This type of

Crown restoration pruning is often required for severely storm damaged trees

pruning removes the lowest limb(s) for clearance. Finally crown restoration may be needed for severely pruned or severely storm-damaged trees. This type of pruning begins to restore the proper form and structure of damaged trees by establishing and maintaining acceptable branch attachments and the performance of cuts to allow rapid wound response.


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