Friday, November 13, 2009

Depends upon what you mean by "Pruning"

A landscape designer colleague of mine (who is an arborist and a member of the Tree Commission) recently sent me this comment about the Con Ed pruning activity in and around Irvington:

The problem is that when we discuss what Con Ed is doing, we are using the word "pruning", and are dumbfounded by the results because we have certain expectations of what a tree should look like after it is pruned. For example, I was astonished to see that many of the trees that Con Ed had freshly cut still had dead branches left in place. This is clearly not "accepted practice" for pruning as horticulturalists use the term - since we would follow the rule of first remove dead, dying or diseased branches, keep cuts of live wood to an absolute minimum, and don't hack off large leaders because the wound will be too large for the mature tree to be able to heal. This made me realize that Con Ed is NOT pruning trees, they're cutting out wood that is impinging on their lines. In other words, they're looking at the wires and saying where does this branch that is in the wires start, let me cut it off...

Cutting is not pruning. And the sad truth is that, because of that fact, the trees that are being cut are being put in a situation where they will have to use their reserves to heal from the cuts of live wood that have been made. They likely don't have enough reserves to do that, because, after all, they're street trees and their root zones are already very non-ideal! So they will go into decline, and will have to come down in several years anyway. Plus, some of the cuts have been made so awkwardly, leaving stumps of medium-sized branches and small side branches, that the plant hormone signals between roots and branches will be screwed up - this is how you get a plethora of "water sprouts", none of which can ever become a real branch, further compromising both the form and health of the tree.

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