Dormant hero!!
Dec 6, 2005
So. Oregon
can you guys explain the theory/ science behind this. the city of ashland is real big on this. seems odd to me so just looking for input
I think you mean subordinating... look at Gilman's book for a good description. His site describes it, in the powerpoints somewhere.

I've seen it overdone as an overrection to included bark, but more often I've seen it underdone when anti-topping passion burns too hot and folks are afraid to shorten limbs.
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  • #4
subordinating it must be. i went through a few of those slide shows and didnt really find anything there. well they are good presentations but not on what im looking for at the moment
Are you talking about subordinating young trees to create a central leader? Or about subordinating to reduce risk of windthrow/breakouts etc in larger trees?
What is wrong with this forum ? Pruning is tree care. Look harder in the site; it is there. Or better yet buy the book.
Arboromega asks a good question. In my job, these days I am usually pruning trees that are 5-20 years old. Grown most often from crappy nursery stock. Though some of the pruning is to remove broken or crossing branches...I put most of my energy into creating some form of a central leader in a tree. I could tell you a lot about what I do, when and why...

Is this what you're looking for?

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  • #9
i did a bid walk through wednesday and theres a blue spruce about 50 feet tall with 3 main leads. they want to reduce 2 of the leads by 15'.
I say go for it. Tell them that the tree is gonna look a little funky afterwards, but explain to them WHY.

Is the intention to eventually remove the other 2? Can you you remove 1 now? I know I haven't seen it yet, but the math makes sense.

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  • #11
this is their specs, they know what its going to look like as theyve done others (ive done some for them). no they are not planning to remove the other 2 leads as thats most of the canopy. im trying to figure out for my self why is this practice being used? making topping cuts (they really are) and removing food source from the tree for what? most bad unions dont fail
I'm just shooting from the hip here...but...

You are right- most of what we call "bad" unions DON'T fail. BUT we do know that there is a higher rate of failure among bad unions and strong unions. When I see a bad union, I never say there is a high chance of that failing- I just point out that there is a highER chance of that failing (some report 2x more likely to fail than a good union).

So we are removing a large amount of food producing foliage/canopy to reduce the chance of future failure. Like losing a finger to save your hand or something like that.

Cut it back to something good!

I think tree species is pretty important when considering if a bad union will fail. Siberian elms and willows seem to fail at a much higher rate than other trees around here. I have only seen cedars fail around here from root failure and not bad unions. Multiple topped cedars here seem to do alright.
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  • #16
ill try and get some pics when i go down there next week. most of what they subordinate are conifers, red cedar, redwood, spruce, havent seen it on a pine yet. a cable seems like a much better fix mostly. to me anyway.
The hard-and-fast rule of a central leader fails most of us when it comes to trees that are post adolescent, regardless of their size.
Once a tree has been allowed to have 2-3 central leaders, the decision to reduce it becomes severe at a certain age. Conifers seem to handle the 'pruning' better than most >>> they will simply react by either a central leader (leave alone) or multiple leads (take your pick).
Cabling is an option, for sure.
Gosh, what about leaving well enough alone ? Let it be what it is. We can't "fix" everything, ey ?
I've never seen a fork failure on redcedar. Sounds like nutsy overreacting to narrow crotches.
After further thought, I would also add that the age of the tree is very important in whether I subordinate competing tops of trees. If the tree is young, I have no problem doing it. If it is a mature tree, I am far less likely to do it.
Funny thing is,
The definition of 'excurrent' & 'decurrent' changes with the age of the tree.
So you cant really say a particular species of tree is one or the other.
An accurate statement is:
"A tree can exhibit excurrent or decurrent characteristics".
I think that was a joke Guy.... SUB DOMinating...
I still don't get it...too dense I guess, and yes many trees start out excurrent and then turn decurrent.

Boy a pic or two would be good here.
I still don't get it...too dense I guess, and yes many trees start out excurrent and then turn decurrent.

Boy a pic or two would be good here.

Never mind... at least you have a lot of knowledge and experience with trees!
Guy's just being coy, he regularly climbs in studded leather chaps and a ball gag.
Frans, regarding the age of the tree...most of the trees we plant are ones that will be decurrent when mature. For the first ten years of their life, we prune them to have excurrent structure to encourage proper scaffolding branches and all that jazz. I know that as these trees mature, they will sway from excurrentness, and that is fine.