How not to be a tree surgeon (and how not to prune a tree)

March 20, 2012 2 By Richard

As a tree surgeon, driving around anywhere can be an annoying thing. We tend to look at the trees and notice recent work and bad work stands out like a sore thumb. It equally annoying to see people offering a whole range of services including tree work. Trees are complex biomechanical structures and anyone who has spent years on the job or thousands of pounds going to college is not going to suddenly offer fencing or landscaping service. Trees are a specialist field and I would not recommend using any fencing/building/landscaping contractor who claims to offer tree surgery. Sorry, rant over.

Below are a few pictures from one site in the West Midlands who decided to get a landscaper in to do some tree work. I am sure there are some good landscapers out there who are capable of tree surgery, but i would only recommend using a landscaping company with a dedicated arboriculture division

The first two pictures, of the same tree, look pretty bad. The most obvious problem is the large tears all over the tree. These look unsightly and will induce rot and decay into the tree as the would is much larger than it should be. Pruning cuts should be flat (i.e. 90 degrees to angle of the branch) to minimise the surface area of the wound and try to prevent decay, parasites etc getting into the wound. The tree is able to callus over a correctly finished cut but will never be able to recover from these wounds.


But the pegs (the bit of branch which has been left behind) are just as bad. When cut correctly the tree is able to seal the wound, limiting decay. When a peg is left the tree is unable to seal the wound.The peg remains and rots away bringing parasites, pests and disease to the wound. A flush cut (not shown here) is just as bad as it creates a large wound and severs the vascular tissue of the parent branch, again inducing decay and preventing the tree from forming a callus to seal the wound.


The second tree has the same bad cuts as the tree above but has been left in a dangerous state. Trees should balance, they can adapt over a long period of time to support a crown which is weighted heavily in one direction, but if part of a tree is removed the tree can be come unbalanced and unstable. The centre of this tree has been removed leaving it heavily weighted towards the fence and the neighbouring house. It is heavily unbalanced, the wounds will decay and if the tree fails it is only going one way. Also because the centre has been removed any future tree surgery is made more difficult as the natural anchor points, for a tree surgeons rope, have been removed.

This is why it is important to ask for proof of insurance. Sure the landscaper didn’t break any fence panels on the day but what happens if the tree fails, because of his bad work, and falls on a house after he has left?


Work like this is truly shocking and I have spoken to the owner of the property who is trying to get the work rectified.