Thread: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Waco, Tx

    Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    I've had this happen twice. Once with ADF bald cypress and just this year with some I transplanted from a pond.
    First time I planted small ADF bald cypress and cows came and trampled on it so bad it looked like nothing was left, the top was munched off I think. Didn't see or notice it for about a year. Then last year one day there i t was, resprouted and is now about 3' high, surviving on its own.

    This year I trans-planted 7 bald cypress down by creek but was unable to water them . The trees were about 2' high in 5 gal. pots. One was cut down by rabbits or some such. It resprouted about 3 weeks ago. With 6 weeks of drought and multiple days of 100+F temp.s, the other 6 trees have all died. Only the cut down tree is now alive.

    Did cutting down the tree actually enhance its ability to survive in this situation?
    Is this a technique that is valid when one is unable to provide additional watering.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    If you're going to make the trip, why not haul water instead of a saw? Even if the strategy works, you have to have pretty good insight into the tree's health and the future weather. Neither of which I am very confident in my ability to predict.

    My strategy would be to overplant and cut down the excess, if any, when they become established.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Waco, Tx

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    TreeFiddy, I have a total of 50 remotely planted trees, I'm committed to weekly watering for 24 of them, the others are sort of on their own.
    I used to prune the tops of Eastern Red Cedar when transplanting years ok so as to better match the butchered up root system. This perhaps makes sense if you can't water them. Everything I've read nowadays says don't prune back the tops when transplanting trees as they establish roots faster after transplanting. I think however this assumes supplemental watering is being provided. If supplemental watering is unavailable, perhaps pruning the top back is a sound idea. It appears to have saved bald cypress here on two occasions. Anyone else have any experience with this?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Southeastern Wisconsin

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    One time a snowplow smashed our 3 year old 2' black walnut tree level with the ground. The next year a new sprout at the base came up, and it grew more than 2 feet to make up for last year's loss. It's not exactly the same situation as you described, but often trees seem to be pretty vigorous when they're cut off at the base. Can't explain it, but I have seen it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    3 years ago, I had a black walnut about 3 feet tall in my flower bed. The neighbors' mean son broke it off. I thought it was dead but the next year it grew like 5 feet in one season and had huge leaves. I thought it was a different kind of tree because walnuts are usually slow growers, but it was one (I even asked here and posted a pic) Last year it grew taller than the porch roof, and now it is blocking the upstairs windows, headed for the roof. Somebody here told me it was because the roots were prepared to make a bigger tree since it had been broken off so it put all its energy into making a huge one. It's been oversized for its age ever since. I may get nuts next year. Yes it's too close to the house but I'm not cutting it down because I feel sorry for it.

    So the point is I think that if something happens to it the tree will compensate, however I believe if it was done on purpose, it wouldn't react the same way so don't take a chance. I'd never cut one on purpose unless it was obviously dying or partially already gone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Sylva NC zone 7

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    Why not transplant it to a better location.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Waco, Tx

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    I have no better location for the bald cypress trees. They are right on the creek banks. Normally our temperatures would have been in the mid-90's from June to mid-July and the soil wet to moist. The extra hot temperatures coupled with almost no rain have dried everything out and wreaked havoc with all trees.

    Another of the bald cypress has resprouted from the dead. Yippee! This one tree is a Guadalupe River cypress, known for their high alkaline tolerance! Went ahead and watered it. Perhaps it will pull thru also.

    Beginning to think that severe pruning may be called for if planting a tree one will not be able to water.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Sylva NC zone 7

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    I was talking about the walnut tree that I Loves Trees is talking about.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    I thought about it, but by the time I realized what it was and what a problem it was close to the house, it was already too big to move it. I feel sorry for it now, poor thing, it doesn't know it's up against the house. Actually it's really just up against the porch, so it shouldn't hurt the foundation. If I ever get rich I'll have one of those trucks with the big claw come get all the roots for me. I am afraid of killing it.

    Here's a picture from last summer, it's up past the attic window now.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    NE Tennessee

    RE: Cutting Down the Tree to Save the Tree?

    I don't think that I would advocate the practice as a means to neglect watering, but it is a fairly common practice in the nursery trade as a way to salvage trees that would otherwise have to be culled due to incorrectable trunk deffects. Young trees with good root systems have a much better chance of surviving this type of treatment. There is also a pruning technique known as coppicing that is similar yet quite different.
    These trees do tend to push much more vigorous growth...if the root system is compensate for the huge imbalance between root system and live crown. A tree HAS to have its leaves to live after all. This will take away from its ability to resist disease and causes stress, which could lead to a shorter life.
    "EDUCATION begins when you question something. EDUCATION occurs when you have resolved your doubts" Alex Shigo

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