To prune or not, a mature Quercus Alba

rovenorth(Western WA)July 26, 2014

Greetings ...

I am new to Bellingham, WA and have had a difficult time finding a certified arborist, so I thought I'd post this to see if anyone has advice.

There's a gigantic (how's that for specificity?) and apparently entirely healthy white oak on my lot. It's closer to the house than I'd like, and has a slight lean toward the house too.

The tree has three massive lower limbs (beginning roughly ten feet up the trunk) shading a lawn and a vegetable garden a bit too much, so I'd like to have them removed, but that's where my two concerns arise.

First concern: I fear that removing the lower limbs will make the tree "top heavy." That wouldn't be good. If I remove the three lowest limbs, the next major laterals would be about five feet farther up the trunk.

Second concern: I've been looking around on the Internet, and there seems to be a general consensus that it's best to leave very old and otherwise healthy oaks alone. In other words, the pruning I'm considering might just be asking for trouble (disease and pests).

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Many thanks!

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tenacre(Z5 SW MI)

Find a library that has a copy of Alex Shigo's book "A New Tree Biology" and read it.

See what happens to the inside of the tree.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:31PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

based on the pix provided.. i have no idea how to answer this question ...

nor do i understand how you couldnt find an arborist .... see link ... the result of a .41 sec search .. as per google ...

after his inspection.. should you be able to post some pix.. we could discuss his recommendations .... if you wish ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 10:07AM
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rovenorth(Western WA)

Thanks tenacre for the reference. Being new to the subject, I was unaware of Shigo, and over a cup of coffee this morning I definitely enjoyed reading up about him and his work. That stated, it's unlikely I'll read a 600+ page book before making a decision about this particular tree. Again, though, thanks ... I enjoyed reading about Shigo.

Good golly, Ken, woke up on the wrong side of the wolverine, did we? Things really that depressing in MI (a place I've always loved)? Thanks for the .41 second search "as per" Google. Yes, I know that company. In fact, they're 2.5 blocks from my as per house. But no, I don't want to as per hire them. Maybe you could realllllly put your back into it and give me an as per .42 second search, if you're not too as per whatever.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:03PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Rovenirth, Ken is saying he needs pictures to give recomendations.

First you need to determine if sudden oak death or whatever folks seal oak wounds to prevent is in your area.

Second figure out proper pruning cuts. The two (or more if they are huge) cut method and branch collars.

Third, trees do not like big changes and it is difficult to put a branch back on after removal so go slowly.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:43PM
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White oaks are tough trees. In my neighborhood heavy pruning of mature white oaks has not hurt their health.
Washington State U has a master gardener program. Here is a link (specifically for your county) where you can try a call to ask for someone who might give you expert advice, or someone who might at least steer you to a trustworthy arborist:
What motivated someone to call the county Whatcom, by the way? Never mind. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 11:06PM
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If you can use another area of your yard for a garden, and let the white oak be, that would be ideal. It's your yard and tree, the oak may be fine after pruning, but if it can be left alone, I would leave it be. If you will only be planting a few things, you can get away with a small garden plot. Well, that's your choice.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 9:40PM
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tenacre(Z5 SW MI)

> Alangrr Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 23:06
> ...has not hurt their health

How do you know? How many years ago was the heavy pruning done?


    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

I bought a house with a Quercus Alba (white oak) growing in the back, which is a wooded area. It is about 30 feet from the house. I called a tree service to come and look at it, and they said it was about 150 years old. The house is about 100 years old so they have been together a long time.

This tree is massive. The trunk is probably 4 feet across. It is easily over 100 feet high, and probably 100 feet or more wide at the crown. It towers over the house. It is a beautiful old tree.

There are no obvious issues looking at the tree (i.e. dead branches, visible fungus,) except one dead branch in the back that has no chance of falling anywhere dangerous, and the tree service said it is a healthy tree and there is virtually no chance of any branches falling on the house, unless there was a catastrophic incident like a major hurricane. He said it could have a bit of pruning, but as it was in the back with no lift access someone would have to climb and it wasn't really worth the expense. It does lean slightly towards the house and most of the crown is in that direction, as that is the south facing side where the sun is.

This tree has several huge branches extending over the house. It makes me very nervous. Do you think it is worth it to get some extra pruning to try and make the branches that have any chance of falling on the house, or would that just cause unnecessary injury to the tree that would make it less healthy? It is very important the tree remain healthy! I don't really have thousands of dollars to spend pruning a tree either, unless it is really necessary. The dead branch in the back could probably be easily cut off.

Your thoughts on how to best care for this tree are appreciated. There is another one up further in the back, that is somewhat smaller but still pretty big.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 11:07AM
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