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Formative pruning of trees

Alison Aplin

Alison Aplin

June 3, 2019

The current spate of high winds in Australia especially is going to cause more devastation with many of our big trees. And yet this needn’t be the case, if better care was provided while the trees were in their formative years.

I have read that there are those who do not agree with this early pruning. But as an arborist and horticulturist, I firmly believe that trees, especially eucalypts, need early intervention. Some of this has to do with climate change, and the increasing bouts of natural disasters and bad weather events. Most of these include increased wind velocity. But our politicians cant see fact for lack of sense.

Trees, especially big gums, have a bad reputation because of perceived habitual limb drop. I have added photos to this article of a large tree in my garden, a Eucalyptus grandis or Flooded Gum. Planted by previous owners, it is out of its climatic range in SW Victoria, being from NSW. It was obviously never formatively pruned. It is also regularly attacked by so called ‘arborists’ for a power company, who have forced the growth to be very heavy at the base, by thinning the top growth away from power lines.



As a big tree, the growth had to go somewhere and so the lateral low branches, that should have been removed when small, have become very heavy and dropped with a third ready to go. This last massive trunk is being removed as I write, to prevent any further damage to a magnificent tree.

I wrote in January, 2017 on GardenDrum about a similar problem with trees and the fact that they too frequently topple in strong wind. And so much of this is not about the tree – it is the management of the tree from germination. Care as a young sapling germinated in-situ or care in a plant tube – both are vital to the long-term viability of a healthy tree, that doesn’t topple in wind or lose large branches. And formative pruning is really rather easy, when done while the tree is very young.



As our governments keep enabling vast swathes of deforestation to continue unabated along the eastern seaboard, I feel an urgent need to encourage councils and property owners to plant more big trees, to compensate in some small way for the deforestation. But councils don’t seem to understand the need for increased tree planting and are contributing in a big way to climate change problems as a result.

Large trees can redirect wind and stop all manner of turbulence when planted correctly. They have a major role in preventing wind tunnels and stopping damaging winds from ‘dumping’ in heavily urbanised areas. But unfortunately councils aren’t listening. It is also about planting in groups, and not individual trees, which are more exposed being single. They need grouping for maximum effect.

Large trees, especially the tall gums, have a profound effect on evapotranspiration. These are the trees of rainforests, that are being removed for logging. And these trees not only assist in the movement of rain-bearing clouds, but they also have a role to play in soaking up flooded areas after cyclones and heavy rain events. Without these trees, water sits for longer and stagnates. And also without these trees, I believe that the prolonged drought in eastern Australia, caused, in big part, by deforestation, is the result of the diminishing effect of evapotranspiration.

We need to plant more trees. But in doing so, once planted, their care should be prioritised for the first 24 months post planting.

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