You're stumped about the mystery of pruning. It doesn't seem like the street trees ever get pruned. The trees on your street look overgrown, have broken branches, or are hanging down into traffic. The following information should clear up any confusion you may have about when, why, how and who should prune trees.
Trees are living beings that require proper care in order to grow and thrive in the city. When wronged by ignorance, trees live damaged, and ultimately shortened, lives and can even become hazardous. But by understanding proper pruning, you can contribute to the good health of Claremont's community forest.
The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is a highly respected organization of professionals dedicated to, and trained in, quality tree care. The City of Claremont follows ISA guidelines in all avenues of tree planting and care - especially pruning. The Community Services Department maintains a highly trained Forestry Maintenance Crew. Our City uses an ISA Certified Arborist, and our contracted crews are required to have at least one certified supervisor oversee all tree work.
To keep mature trees safe and healthy, the dead, dying, broken or diseased limbs are removed and "sucker" growth sprouting from the base of the tree is cut away. Crossing or weakly attached limbs may also be removed to maintain a strong branch structure. Some foliage is removed to lighten the ends of branches and let light into the dense canopies. Taking into consideration a tree's growth rate, ISA guidelines state that no more than 25% of a tree's living branches and foliage should ever be eliminated.
In other words, slow growing species should be pruned no more than 10%, while faster growing varieties can handle up to 25%. Young urban trees have unique pruning needs, and our City staff keeps careful track of each new tree to insure it receives proper care. And a well-pruned tree should always have a natural shape.
Frequency of pruning is also important to a tree's health. Based on their growth patterns, City street trees are generally placed in one of three cycles for pruning:
Citizen requests for tree pruning can be made to the Community Services Department, (909) 399-5431. City staff will inspect each tree and grant or deny a request based on the needs of the tree (as detailed in the criteria listed above) and public safety concerns. If you wish to do additional work beyond what the City provides, you may obtain a permit to have your tree pruned to City standards by a private arborist.
When urban trees enjoy good health, their natural systems control decay from pests and disease. Proper pruning goes a long way towards promoting this process. Claremont uses Natural Target Pruning to care for its trees. You can also use this process for pruning your own trees. Here is how Natural Target Pruning works:
Despite what is often accepted as common practice, the tops of trees should NEVER EVER be cut off! Commonly referred to as "topping," this drastic procedure is deadly. The uninformed will point to a topped tree's profuse display of dense new growth as proof that no serious damage was done. "It all grows back," they say. Sometimes it does - but along with the regrowth, topped trees must also battle severe health and structural problems.
When a tree is topped, massive amounts of live growth are violently lacerated from it. Cuts are often quickly and carelessly made. Stubs usually remain. Because its source of food has been so radically diminished, the tree must call on its reserves of stored energy to put out new growth. This dense output of greenery is weakly attached and makes the tree highly unstable particularly in windy or stormy weather.
Persistent topping is a virtual death warrant to a tree, forcing it to constantly deplete its stored energy. It eventually becomes so weak that any adverse condition, such as drought or pest infection, will kill it. Topping of street trees is forbidden in the City of Claremont.
Options to topping do exist, depending on the situation and your particular needs. Here are a few alternatives:
Call the Community Services Department, at (909) 399-5431 if you: