Dead Wood

Roundhouse

New Member
Location
SW Washington
Stumbled upon this thread a couple days ago and have been flipping through it. I’m pretty new to the tree care conversation but a couple things came to mind. First of all, I think most of us are not heading into the forest to prune deadwood. Seems to me the conversation is really about how removing deadwood might benefit trees in a human altered environment. Or maybe it’s even more about how we might balance the desires and aesthetics of humans while respecting the natural disposition of trees and help them thrive outside of their natural habitat (the forest). One of the concepts of permaculture is using ecological systems as a model for sustainable food production. If the benefit to the tree’s health of removing deadwood is unclear or unprovable the deadwood can still be removed for other reasons (risk reduction, aesthetics) and then used to make the tree’s environment more like its natural habitat. Maybe chip some of the wood and leave it under the tree or pile it up nearby and encourage homeowners to broadcast it under the tree as is decays. The deadwood can still be habitat after it’s removed and turned into soil just like in the forest. In the era of pristine lawns and leaf collection this might be a tuff sell but it’s worth discussing.

I’d like to think that removing deadwood helps the tree and that humans can help trees thrive. The analogy of a doctor removing a busted toenail comes to mind. Yeah, the nail will come off on it’s own eventually but having it removed helps prevent infection and is much less painful in the long run. I pruned some deadwood out of a big leaf maple in my field the other day. I noticed a lot of cavities in the dead-to-live unions where water pooled and seemed to promote decay. Maybe removing those dead limbs earlier would help prevent that? Also, it seems to me that hangers aren’t a good thing for the limbs they get stuck in so removing those before they break off might be beneficial. I took some of the deadwood for firewood and left several piles close to the tree for habitat and future soil.
 

moss

Well-Known Member
Stumbled upon this thread a couple days ago and have been flipping through it. I’m pretty new to the tree care conversation but a couple things came to mind. First of all, I think most of us are not heading into the forest to prune deadwood. Seems to me the conversation is really about how removing deadwood might benefit trees in a human altered environment. Or maybe it’s even more about how we might balance the desires and aesthetics of humans while respecting the natural disposition of trees and help them thrive outside of their natural habitat (the forest). One of the concepts of permaculture is using ecological systems as a model for sustainable food production. If the benefit to the tree’s health of removing deadwood is unclear or unprovable the deadwood can still be removed for other reasons (risk reduction, aesthetics) and then used to make the tree’s environment more like its natural habitat. Maybe chip some of the wood and leave it under the tree or pile it up nearby and encourage homeowners to broadcast it under the tree as is decays. The deadwood can still be habitat after it’s removed and turned into soil just like in the forest. In the era of pristine lawns and leaf collection this might be a tuff sell but it’s worth discussing.

I’d like to think that removing deadwood helps the tree and that humans can help trees thrive. The analogy of a doctor removing a busted toenail comes to mind. Yeah, the nail will come off on it’s own eventually but having it removed helps prevent infection and is much less painful in the long run. I pruned some deadwood out of a big leaf maple in my field the other day. I noticed a lot of cavities in the dead-to-live unions where water pooled and seemed to promote decay. Maybe removing those dead limbs earlier would help prevent that? Also, it seems to me that hangers aren’t a good thing for the limbs they get stuck in so removing those before they break off might be beneficial. I took some of the deadwood for firewood and left several piles close to the tree for habitat and future soil.

Good thoughts. It's interesting that pooled water in cavities (as I understand it) actually defeats wood rot/fungal activity. It is probably important ecologically for different small critters and insects. Tree frogs for example take advantage of pockets of water in the crown of a tree. I've noticed that American beech tends to make a lot of small codominant pockets in the unions of forest trees. They always contain water after a rain and will keep holding it after the weather dries up.
-AJ
 

Daniel

Well-Known Member
Wounds stay open, and decay enters the parent, when the dead branch stays on. Wounds close when dead branches are removed.

That's been well documented.
But decay does not necessarily mean eventual structural failure. Many unpruned trees have naturally shed deadwood for centuries. The type of decay that results from naturally shed deadwood is often not going to cause the tree to fail, whereas the type of decay that results from a chainsaw wound that cuts past the BPZ on a large cut is much more likely to result in the type of decay that will cause failure. Sigo never made that distinction. His early work was all about discoloration because he was a forester trying to preserve timber value. The industry has unfortunately followed lockstep in his failed reasoning of using discoloration as a parameter to measure pruning results when in reality, there are two types of discoloration. The first is easily tolerated by the tree. the latter results in the type of decay that destabilizes the tree. Shigo never made that distinction, We can!
 

dmonn

Well-Known Member
Location
Mequon
Not all dead is hazardous. I have a pine in my front yard where a lead broke a few years before we moved in. It’s 8 years later, and still solid as a rock.

Mass dampening, checking the movement of other limbs in a windstorm (limb clash). Habitat, introducing air, dying, and chemical changes into the heart wood. On and on.

Remember ‘hazardous’ means high likelihood of failure which can negatively impact a target, where the consequences of which are deemed intolerable to the property owner/land manager.

I’ve been winching out dead tops and leaders from alders, aka fracture pruning. Reducing the range of the remainder to fall short of targets. It’s very educational, predicting where the piece will break, and getting fooled.
So true. The most surprising one I can remember was reefing on a 3-inch limb well out from the union on a 12" DBH dead (EAB) ash, tied on about 40 feet up. The limb didn't break--the 12" trunk broke about a foot off the ground. Good thing I was pulling through a redirect and well out of the way.
 

dspacio

Member
Location
South County
wow. well, it took a few long sittings but I read through this whole thread.

it's exposing how much of what I "know" about pruning is truly from a limited source of a few mentors, my experiences, and a handful of books. Yet, that's basically what it's always going to be. We observe, we listen, we read, we act and learn.

As my start was in pruning fruit trees, generally that hadn't been touched in over 5 years, sometimes 20 years; removing deadwood, suckers, crossers, and creating internal airflow, all had great results, that I confirmed from seeing dormant trees put out great crops afterward. The actions to take were often pretty clear, and I trained my eye to find the strongest looking and well balanced branch patterns to leave.

Yet, my results with apples, pears, cherries and peaches don't necessarily prove anything about the massive oaks and pines, etc. But I have been applying the same basic principles, based on my joy with the fruit. Because the proof is in the pudding, er, pie.

Thanks everyone for all these questions. Wish I could thank you for the answers... but nah, it's still the honing of perception and reasoning that remains.
 

dspacio

Member
Location
South County
Thanks everyone for all these questions. Wish I could thank you for the answers... but nah, it's still the honing of perception and reasoning that remains.

It reminds me of a question I was asked, "What do you Know, that you didn't read, hear somewhere, or nobody told you?"

Maybe that's not the scientific method, but I guess the hillbilly in me remains comfortable being aware of signs in the tree and making choices.
My curious self will continue reading and looking at cross-sections, yet the map will never be the territory.

Out here we have loads of hairy lichen growing on the seaside trees. When I see it getting overly hairy, I open up those spaces a bit more. It's one of these areas I realize is totally hazy, I don't know if the lichen is beneficial, detrimental, benign.. no idea. Nobody I ask seems to have any idea. If you peel it all away, it just grows back. I tend to find it excessively in dense areas, so I make those look more familiar to the areas with more balanced lichen content. Science? No. I just try to imagine if my arm were completely covered in lichen.

Without being too cavalier, it seems like these things continue to appear, unclear situations, questions about lichen, and in that moment, there's no chance to go review scientific literature. And while I readily admit gaps in my knowledge to clients, I want to make sure they are confident that I will make the best outcome possible within my ability and time for the day. I hone in on what their primary hopes and intentions are. Many here spoke about the spread between what's best for the tree, and what the client is asking for.

I know this is tangential to the Deadwood topic, but what I found more than all else in this thread is that it strikes an existential chord within me, about how I can be sure if anything I do has good effect or purpose! I aint about to quit tho...

So after all, we still have no conclusive evidence here of the beneficial effects to a tree biology in removing Deadwood. Yet to me, this thread itself is the purest science I know of. Listening to stories from the folks who interact closely with the subject. Ideally, I can listen to those who have the most expansive experience over time. These condensed viewpoints form points of reference for each successive wave to confirm or disprove.

And then, maybe some things we just Know.
 

dspacio

Member
Location
South County
It reminds me of a question I was asked, "What do you Know, that you didn't read, hear somewhere, or nobody told you?"


And then, maybe some things we just Know.
Hope you know that the only reason I even go there, is because
I Know that I Don't Know Sh*t. By becoming aware of our blind and vague areas, we can learn.

Acting based on feeling and limited study doesn't match the capacity of someone with years of study, practice and research.

Yet the past year has shown plenty of times that science seems to have more questions than answers, and that doesn't need to be a bad thing. Sometimes the worst thing to do is nothing at all. And those actions are hopefully drawn from the best estimation of the one with the situation right in their face.

I realize I have a lot more philosophy than science when it comes to this topic. I keep remembering moments where I am trying to figure out some section of a tree, and it's confusing (branches beginning to fuse, which should go, etc) and what remains positive for me is choices made not from a logic, but from some kind of "sight" around what "wants to happen." Sounds mystical but that's how I can put it. Things keep moving.

Anyway, I am not adding anything that hasn't been covered thoroughly in this thread. It really is a high-value conversation! I am still thinking about it a week later :)
 

Redtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Mt. Albert
It helps to facilitate the healing process where the tree can grow over the wound .
I disagree or at least question this. It does not necessarily facilitate the healing process, which is fine the way it occurs without our influence. It doesn't facilitate, it changes. It cuts wood, sometimes where it is still alive, across the grain, opening it up. Yes this may cause a quicker cover up of the wood, but has any literature or solid conclusion been drawn out as to why that is better for the tree? The unpruned deadwood has dealt with the compartmentalization of the decay already from the inside. whether you cut off the dead or not is largely a safety or aesthetic goal. which is fine but is landscaping not tree care.
Otherwise if you want to practice cutting that is tree care, you make small green cuts at the periphery of the crown, to influence the structure for the better, if necessary. No heavy cuts for tree care purposes. Change the trees future not its past.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

Redtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Mt. Albert
by the way, I can admit that I perform a lot of tree cutting that is landscaping not tree care. It's part of the trade. And an arborists goal should be to perform the landscaping of trees while minimizing the harm done. With deadwooding, that may mean leaving a stub, because the collar is stub at times. Further to that, with deadwood cuts I think it is a possibility that leaving a dead stub equal to in length to the diameter of the cut, may be better than a collar cut. You can say that the collar cut is facilitating a quicker closure, which prevents decay. You could also say the collar cut interferes with other translocation through the grain or processes otherwise, therefore causing an exposure at the collar point, before the wood there is compartmentalized off. Either thing you say is guessing. One may be right all the time or one right sometimes and the other right other times. Neither is proven and when it is hopefully the study is broad enough to conclude whether all situations and all species fall into the same answer.
So many things in arboriculture need better guidance and details. Like structural pruning is done here in the Toronto area using a process that was developed in Florida. Our maples etc are paying for it.
This deadwood thing is another reminder of how far we still need to go scientifically in this field. Perhaps we try to make certain complex things simple, and there not.
Like the rules 'remove damaged branches', 'remove crossing branches', 'reduce codominant limbs', 'remove suckers', 'remove invasive species', 'remove broken stubs remaining from storm damage'. These rules are so often wrong or misleading. In some cases, most often wrong.

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using Tapatalk
 

New threads New posts

Kask Stihl NORTHEASTERN Arborists Wesspur TreeStuff.com Kask Teufelberger Westminster X-Rigging Teufelberger Tracked Lifts Climbing Innovations
Top Bottom