cutting back river birch tree to trunks

jbug1960March 20, 2014

I have a extremely large river birch with three trunks that is about 20+ years old planted 10 ft from my house and patio. One of the trunks is leaning against our chimney and the branches are spread out over a large area of our roof. I was wondering if I can have each trunk cut back to about 12 - 15 feet......which would leave only a couple of branches on each trunk. Would it survive and put out new branches from the trunks only. I was considering having it removed, but if I could reduce it to about 1/2 of its current size I might keep it. Thanks for any help or suggestions.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

This will wreck the specimen - have the whole thing removed instead.

Keep in mind that when you top vigorous trees they just grow back, this time with an ugly shape, possible rot in the trunks (quite likely with a birch) and poorly attached replacement trunks which may break away from the original trunks later.

Birches are already prone to bending or breaking in ice storms, a previously topped birch with a bunch of new stem growth of some size and weight is just waiting to fall apart.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 2:22PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

kinda hard without a pic ...

but why not have just to one taken down to ground level

and then be methodical in insuring it does not sucker back up ...

this might buy you a few more years ...

but usually results.. in wishing .. in a few years.. that you hadnt wasted the money.. instead, sucking it up.. and removing it as bboy suggests ...

NEVER!!!! ... EVER!!! ... top a tree.. for any reason ...


Here is a link that might be useful: and here are a few million reasons why ... 7 hundred and ninety three million.. to be presice.. lol ..

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Birch don't like to be cut into at all, I'd expect the crown of one partly cut to the ground to rot out - possibly resulting in the remaining trunks going over at some point.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 4:00PM
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I have 40 year old river birches here, and I always show them to visitors so they NEVER plant a river birch near their house. They get huge. Tall. Very Wide. They rain branches down at all times of the year. If I were you, I would take it out.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 4:20PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

If you're having someone do the work might as well cut them down and be done with it and replant with something smaller.
If you feel like experimenting, cut them down completely and let the sprouts grow up for a new clump. They'll come up quickly from the roots and should look decent in three or four years.... But soon enough you'll have the same problem you're facing now due to their location.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 1:07PM
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Thanks everyone for the input....I love the tree and the shade it provides to our patio and actually only one trunk is the one we worry about as it is only about a foot away from the top of our brick fireplace chimney. I might do as ken Adrian suggested....cut that one trunk down to ground and trim back the other two and see how it goes. That tree has been through a number of really bad storms.....even the renowned ice storm in Kentucky in 2010. All of our oak trees across the back of our lot had tremendous amounts of broken limbs but the birch survived with minimal damage.....go figure. We flew out of Nashville last spring and the Raddison Hotel we stayed overnight in had a row of about six large birches in front that someone has taken down to nothing but the trunks remaining. I think I will call down there and ask them if they survived and maybe get someone to email me a picture. We did not plant this tree and cannot imagine anyone else planting one this close, but it is what it is.........thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 1:28PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

On the trunk that would remain, realize that if it is pruned back this spring it will "bleed" profusely and depending on where the cuts are made would drip on the patio? This will not hurt the tree but can be messy until the tree comes into leaf.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 2:41PM
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