Monday, May 23, 2011

Pruning Basics: Trimming/Removing A Dead Branch

Tree pruning is most necessary when branches are dead, wounded, or diseased, and therefore posing risk to the health of the rest of the tree. An abundance if dead wood is a friendly feast for rot fungi, and can allow disease and fugi to spread from the dead wood to the live flesh.

But while it is advantageous to rid a healthy tree of its excess dead wood and unwanted dead branches, poorly executed pruning is equally bad if not worse for the well-being of your trees. Incorrectly pruning can result in a lengthy list of tree-health issues: including cankers, sun scald, frost cracks, insect borers, and more.

Amateur tree-pruners and home-gardeners tend to leave too much of the stub when cutting off branches. Once the extended stub dies off, it creates an easy gateway for disease pathogens and destructive insects to enter into the tree and wreak havoc.

Fortunately, making the correct pruning cut on a dead branch is typically much easier than de-limbing a live branch from a young tree. That is because you can distinguish between the dead wood and the live stalk much easier, as a ring of swollen tree flesh encircles the area in which living tree becomes dead branch. This circle is known as the "collar." The collar serves as a natural defense system.

When cutting off a dead branch, a perfect, flush cuts should occur just outside the collar, leaving as little of a stub as possible,  but without damaging or removing any part of the collar (the natural defense barrier).

Usually a series of cuts and incises should be made in order to safely remove the dead branch. Just a simple slice just beyond the swollen collar is not quite enough. One should begin with a small cut just beyond the collar and on the underside of the dead branch. Next, just beyond the first slice, cut all the through, taking down the dead branch, so that when you make the more important cut next to the collar, your not apt to cause tearing as the weight of the dead branch puts stress on the joint. Refer to the diagram above or to the right to see exactly what I'm talking about.

So there you have it. Now you can remove dead branches all on your own. But for rather large or particularly high dead branches, consider bringing in certified arborists a.k.a. "tree experts," like the ones at Hufnagel Tree, to do your pruning for you.


  1. Love to read this blog, it a good guide for readers of tree trimming Cary on your good advises.
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  2. More Tree Sense in my book by the same name, just released on Kindle. Prepare yourself though- it's poetry. If you love trees, you will like it, as loaded with photography too. -Mike Shaw

  3. Pruning dead branches is pretty important, if you don't rid your plant of its decaying branches and limbs, it could become infected and waste nutrients trying to feed dead limbs. Its a waste of resources.

    -Samudaworth Tree Service
    Tree Service Brooklyn

  4. Thank you for sharing. Nutrient removal and recovery solves two problems by reducing nutrient contamination and recovering nutrients for reuse as a fertilizer.

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  7. Tree Pruning or Tree Service is must for increasing life of your tree and to make your tree healthy.

  8. Trees offers lots of benefits but when they grow really big then they can be harmful and they can destroy structures that are situated near them and they can harm family members too. You should look for a tree removal service that handles tree removal efficiently.Really you have shared some useful tips of hiring tree removal services.

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  9. I have a dead tree in my backyard. I need to get it removed. I would do it by myself, but I don't want to get hurt. I will hire a professional to remove it for me.

  10. It seems like this would not be too bad to execute. Still, I would much rather have a tree removal company do it for me. I am to afraid of heights to attempt something like this.

  11. I need someone to come remove a tree stump from my yard. I've tried doing this by myself, but I've had a hard time. I think it's time to call in a professional who has the right equipment to do it.

  12. We have a few trees in our backyard that have so many dead branches that need to be pruned. I actually had no idea in your opening paragraph that the dead branches could cause rot fungi to feast on those branches. It makes me think that this fungi is taking over our fully dead tree on the side of the house. We really need to get that removed.