Glorious, Great and Grounded: A Tree Blog

The Living Dead: Why, When And How To Have A Tree's Dead Wood Removed

Deadwooding is the name given to the process of removing dead portions of wood from a living tree, and it is an important part of maintaining the good health and structural integrity of many large and/or old trees. However, when undertaken with too little knowledge or too much enthusiasm deadwooding can actively damage an otherwise healthy tree, so it is important to know what exactly to look for and how to have dead wood safely removed before you begin work on maintaining your trees.

Why is deadwooding a tree important?

As a tree grows and ages, it is entirely natural for it to produce branches and sections of wood that quickly die, due to damage, weather conditions and other factors. However, while large amounts of deadwood can appear on even the healthiest tree, it may not be a good idea to leave them in place -- dead wood retains its weight while losing structural strength, meaning that dead branches and limbs can fall without warning to make the area under your tree a distinctly unhealthy place to be.

However, the accumulation of deadwood can also cause other problems -- it can dramatically alter the weight distribution of a tree, making it unbalanced and unsafe particularly in high winds. Areas of dead wood also provide an excellent breeding ground for wasps and other undesirable insects, as well as promoting the accumulation of certain types of fungus and rot that can spread from dead wood to living tissue. As such, it's important to have your tree's dead wood removed promptly (and safely) as soon as it becomes a problem.

Why should you subject a tree to deadwooding?

While removal of deadwood can spruce up (no pun intended) practically any tree that has accumulated large amounts of dead wood, there are certain circumstances under which prompt deadwooding becomes very important:

  • When a large proportion of a tree's canopy becomes deadwood, altering the tree's balance and posing a heavy falling risk
  • When dead branches and limbs overhang passageways, particularly public roads and pathways
  • When dead branches overhang houses and other buildings, risking heavy structural damage if they fall
  • When a tree starts to list and become noticeably unbalanced under the weight of its dead wood
  • When mould or fungal rot spreads extensively over deadwood and poses an infection risk to living tissue
  • When structural damage to a dead branch or limb is caused by insects, birds or other animals

How should you go about deadwooding my tree?

If a small tree with suitably slender limbs has been afflicted with large amounts of deadwood, and you are confident in your ability to remove deadwood without damaging living wood, you can attempt to tackle the problem yourself using ordinary tree pruning tools. However, deadwooding larger trees almost always requires professional assistance; professional tree surgeons possess heavy duty cutting equipment for swiftly and cleanly removing dead limbs and sections of wood, as well as the safety equipment required for working at heights in large trees.

Hiring tree surgeons to deadwood your tree also has another advantage, in that you gain the keen eye of the surgeons for determining a tree's balance and structural strength; this allows tree surgeons to remove deadwood in a balanced and discriminating way, to avoid overbalancing a tree by removing too much deadwood from one side of the canopy. Tree surgeons will also be able to remove a limited amount of living limbs without damaging the tree, helping to keep balance and limb density level across the entirely of the tree's canopy. For more information on deadwooding and tree lopping, contact a local professional.