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Crown Reduction & Restoration


In addressing these two facets of tree surgery, I will cover each one individually. There are sometimes situations when a larger tree must have it’s height and overall canopy spread minimized or reduced. In these instances a practice known as crown reduction is the preferable way of accomplishing this task. It is a method where the main leading limbwork located at the trees extremities, that is to say it’s upper most and outermost points is pruned back to the nearest actively growing secondary branches, which then become the new dominant leaders and thereby the tree is reduced in size.

This method of crown reduction should not be confused with topping, which is very destructive to many larger shade trees. Topping produces uneven or lopsided growth, weak limb attachment and crown rot. Some trees never recover from topping or repeated butchering.
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 Hurricane Tree Specialists does not engage in the practice of topping trees, and we advise anyone considering it of the damaging effects and future problems associated with this most destructive practice. Although topping may alleviate a particular problem temporarily, it will not make a tree safer. On the contrary topping can greatly weaken a tree, and in severe cases can kill a tree.

 While it is commonly known that most larger growing shade trees (hardwoods in particular) should never be topped, there are exceptions. Certain plants are considered to be topiary species, meaning they can be topped but these are generally limited to smaller soft stemmed ornamental trees and shrubs. The art of topiary is primarily used for creating hedges or unusual shapes (sculpting) or bonsai etc.

Crown restoration is a practice by which trees that have been previously damaged by a storm for one example, where multiple breaks have occurred, or have been thoughtlessly topped by unknowing or incompetent individuals can be restored to a more optimal state of health and natural growth pattern.

Once again it should be noted that while crown restoration is an attempt to reverse the damage done to a tree it is not an instantaneous process, and may take routine pruning and treatment over several years or more depending on the extent of damage to obtain the desired outcome. It is also important to remember that tree species is also part of the equation. Different trees respond differently to the various treatment regimen. Also treatment intervals and rejuvenation and recovery times can vary from one tree to another.

A Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana ) for example can often times be restored after being topped or broken, but since it is not an overly fast growing tree, progress will tend to be moderate to slow.

A Water Oak tree (Quercus nigra) however is a faster growing tree, but it does not compartmentalize wounding as well, and is therefore more susceptible to crown rot and so growing and training new healthy dominant leaders or branches can sometimes become problematic. This tree is not as hardy as it’s longer lived more durable cousin.

I should also mention that it is equally important to initiate treatment sooner rather than later, once damage is discovered. Another critical issue is where the damage is located, for instance is it lower in the heart of the tree? Or higher in the limbwork ? Is it centralized in one area? Or wide spread over a larger portion of the tree canopy? Generally speaking the less damage sustained, the better the chance of a full and complete recovery.

Finally the new limb structure that is created will invariably not be exactly the same as the old growth that was destroyed. Once again the idea here is to create and maintain a more natural pattern of growth, as well as improved aesthetics (symmetry and balance). If you have a tree that you feel may be in need of crown reduction or restoration, give us a call we can determine whether or not you’re tree is a good candidate. We can also advise you on the different techniques and procedures, and can provide proper treatment regimen to ensure optimal conditions for sound regenerative growth as well as tree health and stability.

An important rule of thumb to remember here is that whatever secondary limbs that the tree is pruned back to, should be at least 1/3 the diameter of the limbs that are removed. In some cases where extensive growth must be removed, it is best done in different stages over a period of time, determined by the type of tree and it’s response or growth habit once pruned. This can range from one to several growing seasons depending on how much needs to be removed to accomplish objectives.  

(A proper reduction cut)
(These trees were killed as a result of being topped what a sensless waist of perfectly good trees)
(Formal hedge)
(Tree sculpting)
(The art of bonsai)
(A diagram illustrating proper crown reduction)
(Topping leaves trees horribly disfigured)
(This tree was viciously topped by a major tree company here in tampa four years before this photo was taken. Since that time we have started the restoration process, but it will take years before this tree resembles it's former glory.)
(A live oak tree (Quercus virginiana)
(A water oak tree (Quercus nigra)
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