I was asked to “top” a tree

On Monday I got a call from a man who wanted me to give him a price to prune a tree.  He told me on the phone that he would want me to cut a considerable amount off of the top.  Yesterday I went to look at the tree.  It was the only tree in the back yard, and would have been a very nice tree except that it had obviously been “topped” about 5 years ago.

topped tree

Can you see where the topping cuts were made?

The crown of the tree was made up of clusters of long, weakly attached sprouts as the result of the trees’ growth response to the previous incorrect pruning.

What I now need to explain to him (he wasn’t  home at the time of my visit) is that cutting the top off of his tree again will not achieve anything positive for him.

If he doesn’t want the tree to become “too big” and threatening to his safety, re-topping the tree would actually be completely counterproductive to his goal.  Because what happens when a tree is wounded this way is that (if it’s healthy and has the necessary stored energy) it produces vigorous new growth.  This tree has grown approximately 15 feet in the last 5 years.  Normal annual growth for this species (it’s a sugar maple) is about 6 inches.  If NOTHING had been done 5 years ago, it wouldn’t be any bigger (maybe even not as big) as it is now.  And all that new vigorous sprout growth is less sturdy that the natural branching structure would have been – the point of attachment of each sprout is made up of only 5 growth rings, plus there is a column of internal decay below each of the old topping cuts.

The sprout attachments are weak, tight-angle crotches.

Now, after 5 years the trees growth rate is becoming closer to normal.  I could do some corrective pruning – cut away the dead stubs, thin the sprouts to remove the excess and  retain the stronger ones, and train for  future growth  that will produce the strongest possible branch structure.  This will be a pretty lot of work, but it would be worth doing – it’s a young, vigorous tree without any other problems, and there is plenty of space for it to grow to its natural size.  The tree would  have needed  way less work (at way less cost!) if all it needed now was normal maintenance pruning.  But  it will need nothing more than a little minor pruning every few years once we take care of the corrective work.

But first I have to explain all this to the customer and convince him not to just repeat the previous mistake.

TOPPING IS MALPRACTICE!  Those who perform it are either ignorant of tree biology, or unscrupulous!

P.S. – The next time we do a removal of a tree that was damaged by topping I’ll post some autopsy pictures.

Another “Emerald Ash Borer” Scare

I was called to the clients’ home because her beloved huge white ash was not looking healthy- lots of dead wood- and had been receiving a hammering from wood peckers.  When I checked the tree, besides the woodpecker holes, I observed many exit holes in the bark that had been produced by boring insects.  Some were the typical oval shape of the ash-lilac borer, but some had that dreaded “D” shape that could possibly indicate EMERALD ASH BORER.

Sure looks similar to E.A.B!

I looked closer, picking away at some of the dead bark and poking into the borer holes.  Eventually I found, to my relief (and the tree owner, Anna’s!), the wing cover of an adult ash- lilac borer in one of the “D” shaped holes.  False Alarm!! Not EAB!

 

The client REALLY wanted to save the tree, but I didn’t want to waster her money on an expensive pruning job if it were doomed anyway because of Emerald Ash Borer.  So my men climbed the tree and checked the dead branches, also, for signs of E.A.B. infestation.  All clear.  We went ahead with the pruning.  The tree is not in the greatest health but it’s now a lot safer without all those dead branches above the driveway and patio.  And it looks nicer too, don’t you think?

Before

After

 

Penn-Del ISA Arbor Day of Service

There are many landscapes consisting of wonderful specimens of old and valuable trees whose owners – public institutions, parks, old cemeteries, etc. – do not have the financial means to provide the care these trees deserve.

The local chapter of our professional society, The International Society of Arboriculture, tries to do something about that.

Each year a nice bunch of volunteer arborists from Penn-Del ISA gets together to perform a day of free tree care service for a needy organization.

This year the very worthy recipient was the Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.  What a magnificent site this is!  It’s a National Historic Landmark, and a horticulturally significant 54 acre oasis right in the middle of Philadelphia, near the University of Pennsylvania.

Today, “Earth Day” 2009, was the day.  Rick, Scott and I had a really fun time working together, in well-organized teamwork, with fellow arborists from around the chapter.  Some of use are competitors in business the rest of the year, but that doesn’t keep us from being best of comrades for this labor of love.

 

We met new friends, shared stories (many with similar themes) and got a lot of really high quality pruning work done.

What a satisfying day it’s been!  I’m tired! Good Night!