Lion-Tailing is NOT the Answer! By: Tree-Care by Robert Miller Inc.
Brought to you by Tree-Care by Robert Miller Inc.
Unfortunately, many people (not professional arborists) misunderstand thinning and subscribe to the practice of only removing branches from the interior of the crown. This is often referred to as lions-tailing, over-lifting, over-thinning, or cleaning out. Little or nothing is removed from the ends of the limbs, and this is a mistake. Maybe it is done because it is easy and generates large piles of brush on the ground. It sometimes seems like people that perform this are charging the unaware customer by the pound because of the huge amount of brush on the ground.
A certified arborist will not recommend Lion-tailing and will prune trees for maximum health and safety according to ANSI standard.
Often as much as 50 to 75 percent of tree foliage is removed. This unfortunate practice is becoming as common place. If it looks unnatural, or over-thinned it probably is. The result is unhealthy and structurally weakened trees. Trees need leaves to survive!
Lions-tailing results in:
- End heavy branches
- Branch failure and breakage
- Sun scalding
- Rapid sucker growth
- Rotting and cracks
- Increased disease and insect vulnerability
- Severe stress
Why is it wrong?
- The tree’s food supply is reduced by removing a large percentage of the leaves used for photosynthesis
- Over-pruning causes a stress reaction called epicormic sprouting, water sprouts or suckers, causing a cluster of branches to grow along the trunk and limbs, leading to weak branch unions and poor overall structure.
- Long, leafless branches are susceptible to breakage and splitting when wind, snow and ice events happen.
What can be done?
A tree can recover from lion-tailing if the sprouts are allowed to develop into branches and then are reduced slightly and spaced along the branch.
The proper pruning technique is vital. Hat-racked (topping) and over-lifting (removal of too many bottom branches) and lion’s-tailing (gutting) pruning styles are justifiably considered malpractice in arboriculture.
Good pruning is basically an art – the end result is subtle. The finished product should be understated and natural looking difference. At first glance, the pruning work should go unnoticed.
Want the best results from the tree company hired to prune your trees . . . the bottom line is communication. Outline in writing, what you want and what you do not want. Never assume that the hired worker instinctively knows exactly what you want, even if the worker is a certified arborist. Misunderstanding can and do occur.