We can help you make the right choice
This is a topic we have wanted to cover for a little while now. We often get calls from people telling us they need a tree lopper. As arborists, you will typically hear us talk about pruning instead. There’s a good reason for this and we hope this blog will clear it up. So read on for the whys and wherefores of why pruning and lopping is different and how to make the best choice for your trees.
There are different definitions for the terms tree lopping and pruning. We think it’s important to understand the difference. We also want to make sure you know we applying the practices can be detrimental to the long term health of your tree.
It’s good to remember that trees aren’t simply stagnant plants that provide us with shade and aesthetics. They have intricate internal systems that protect and strive for the greatest chances of survival. Random limb removal from an otherwise healthy tree will spark a process of sprouting new growth. How this is done can result in a more sound or a more unsafe tree.
With that in mind, what is the difference between Lopping and pruning?
Lopping is the indiscriminate removal of branches from a tree most commonly used to reduce the size of a tree or limbs thought to be a hazard. When lopping, branches can be removed without consideration to the way the tree will respond to severe pruning.
How does it respond? I’m glad you asked…..
Stree of foliage removal;
Removing any amount of leaves from a tree can cause stress. Leaves are a trees greatest source of food so removing them can cause temporary starvation. This then triggers a response to shooting new growth as a means of survival. This new growth is called epicormic growth.
Epicormic growth is the new fluffy shoots we see on trees. This growth is the trees way of telling us that it needs more leaves to survive. You may also hear them referred to as “suckers”, this is the first response by a tree reacting to stress.
The knock-on effect of this epicormic if growth is that it has a poor attachment point because the stem shoots from just underneath the bark of growing via the natural process of building strong limbs via overlapping fibres on the body of the tree. If allowed to grow, they can be quite advantageous and in a short period of time become large enough to do damage when they drop off.
Unfortunately, the side effects don’t end there;
Lopping can mean a vulnerable tree;
Haphazardly lopping branches from a tree means a large surface area of the tree is exposed at the cut (also called a ‘wound’) and the tree takes a longer time to heal, leaving it more susceptible to pests and disease. These large wounds will possibly never “heal” over. Which can severely decrease the structural integrity of the tree.
If you’ve taken a large portion of the trees energy source away (the leaves), it is unlikely to have sufficient energy to defend itself. Pests and disease will then make the tree more vulnerable and pose a larger hazard than you have tried to remove.
While lopping might seem like a good idea for a tree that needs some height or weight taken off it can create more of a hazard in the long run.
So how do reduce the weight bearing limbs or the height on an otherwise healthy and well structured tree?
Correct pruning by a qualified arborist;
Yep, there is a way to correctly prune a tree without the same detrimental impact as lopping.
As we’ve learned the way we cut informs the tree of what action to take to heal and protect itself and so, survive. Correct pruning at the collar made just beyond the point of attachment, will encourage a tree to heal the wound. It can also reduce the likelihood of epicormic growth, prolong the health of the tree and prevent failures.
Typically speaking, weight reduction pruning is a far more practical way of reducing the risk of failure. Not only does it keep the tree aesthetically pleasing, but maintains the natural shape of the tree as well. Where lopping often lacks the skill, education and is not as pleasing to the eye in fact it can look ugly.
A qualified arborist will understand the techniques to keep your tree beautiful and healthy and meet Australian standards (which recommends not removing more than 25% foliage) to prevent a stress response from the tree. By removing less foliage we’re keeping the tree as healthy as possible.
Pruning a tree is a skilful practice. An arborist will assess carefully and be technical in their approach. They also consider the reduction of a tree for weight or height as a preventative measure rather than a ‘quick fix’
So will you choose a lopper or a professional arborist to tend to your valuable trees? There’s a significant difference. Choosing a tree lopper may be the fastest and cheapest option right now. However, a qualified arborist who considers the needs of people and property when providing a tree pruning service will be less costly and more valuable in the long run.