Crown Reduction

Crown Reduction is the overall reduction in the height and spread of a tree’s crown by pruning back limbs to a growing point. It is usually carried out over the entire main branch system, with selected laterals forming the outline of the new reduced crown shape.

This process is often used when a tree needs to be kept at a certain size and stopped from developing to its full potential. Trees in amenity and residential areas are often crown reduced at 5-10 yearly intervals to keep the crown size constant.  Trees underneath or adjacent to overhead electricity cables are often kept maintained in this way to keep limbs from growing amongst the wires.

Crown Reduction reduces the sail area of the tree and consequently minimises its impact in a strong wind. Limbs are shorter and less likely to fracture when moving in strong winds or when the weight of the foliage and limb can no longer be supported and the limb fails, as can often happen in summer months when trees are in full leaf.

Crown dieback and the tree becoming ‘stag-headed’ (an overall dieback of the crown resulting in dead wood appearing at the crown edge) can sometimes be checked by crown-reducing the tree, however underlying reasons as to the tree’s poor health should always be investigated.

Crown Reduction is usually measured as a percentage of the trees total crown area – thus a 20% reduction would be typical to maintain the shape of a mature Oak or Horse Chestnut, at approximately 40-50 years old. Reductions of over 30% are usually not recommended unless it is the correct course of action for a particular tree – more than 40% and the tree will soon become a pollard and will have to be managed as such in the future. This is not be the correct course of management for many species of tree that are unsuited to hard pruning.

Crown Reduction is often coupled with thinning as the desired outcome of reducing a tree’s sail area can be achieved by thinning coupled with a lighter reduction.

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