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Tree Walk: Curious things we do to trees

Among the curious things people to do trees is improper crown reduction resulting in a crown that looks like a lion's tail. It is terribly heart breaking to see a tree, like the sweetgum above, that is not growing like a sweetgum (the difference between sidewalk and lawn habitat?). Also, this sweetgum has been raised improperly. The Forest Service recommends maintaining "live branches on at least two-thirds of a tree's total height" (USDA Forest Service publication NA-FR-01-95).

The sweetgum's crown can be is described as follows:

Young sweetgum have a strong excurrent growth habit and long, conical crowns that usually prune themselves readily under forest conditions. There is a wide range in branch angle from acute to almost 90' in young trees. Depending on site quality, and at a definite stage in development, sweetgum. becomes decurrent as the trees mature, and the crown becomes rounded and wide spreading. The tops of overmature trees are usually broken or stag headed.

The horticulture program at the University of Florida describes the sweetgum's crown as follows: "symmetrical canopy with a regular (or smooth) outline, and individuals have more or less identical crown forms [and the] crown shape [is] oval; pyramidal."

Here is another example of lion tail pruning on the left with fuller crowns on the right side of the street without overhead wires. The trees on the left right resemble begin to look like palms.

One solution to a tree whose trunk is broken: repair with wood and nails.

A common urban design element is the tree grate (more popular on the East Coast than in the SF Bay Area?). Surely it is time to remove this grate? (Disclosure: the photograph was taken in 2003.) Read a related post about infrastructure - street tree conflicts.


Anonymous said…
Yikes! Poor trees. Poor you for having to see them! It's hard to pick a good street tree and safeguard it from all the potential ills, but there are many good choices. Maybe it's easier when the sidewalk doesn't go all the way up to its base? That outgrown grate is horrendous!
steelystyle said…
That's so odd. I've seen awful things done to trees in the name of powerline protection, but it looks like those trees are growing right up around them?
Anonymous said…
Hello outofdoors (Eleanor). You make a good observation. These trees do not have the ubiquitous U shape associated with utility pruning, but I'm still woeful of the small crowns.
Anonymous said…
I am always upset by seeing trees that have been mutilated to make way for power lines. I think it would be far better to choose trees that can reach their full size withOUT such severe pruning. As for the trees living under pavement, with tiny air vents at their base - it just makes me sad. I always think of them as trapped. Maybe the permeable paving you spoke of could be an option to the traditional concrete walkways?