Redwood Trees

Cyndi321October 25, 2012

Hi, I have (had) 6 beautiful large redwood trees in my yard.

Last week my neighbor asked if he could have his tree-trimming guy trim a couple of branches off two of them to allow more sunlight into his yard & I agreed.

Instead they sawed 20 good sized branches about 2 feet from the trunks from the backs of each in one area & they look terrible now. The trees are no longer symmetrical & nearly 1/2 of the back of one is just gone.

My neighbor assures me the branches will grow back & fill in again but I'm skeptical.

Will they?


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Your neighbor knows nothing about trees......chopped off branches do not grow back. Redwoods do have an ability to generate adventitious shoots or growth from areas other than primary growth nodes but it is highly unlikely these would generate enough growth to properly "fill in" the removed branches.

And not a good idea to leave 2' branch stubs. First, it looks hideous and second, it does not benefit the tree and can open the way to insect and disease problems. Since the branches are not going to magically grow back, these stubs should be pruned off properly.

After explaining his mistakes to him, I might encourage your neighbor to foot the bill for a proper certified arborist to correct any damage this wholesale branch removal might have incurred. Otherwise he could find himself liable for removal down the road. Whatever you do, take photographs and document the damage now.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Along with Gal's comments....yes do have those stubs removed, up to the" branch collar" if such be visible. Also, while I'm not looking at the trees, it seems they might look better if some branches were removed on the other sides as well. Yes, still more branch removal, but at least a semblance of symmetry might be restored.

In any case, I hope your neighbor is good about this. From what you've told us, he owes you some restorative work.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 5:39PM
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Here are a couple of pics:

I did take the time to call a couple of arborists.

One said if green leaves are remaining on the sawn limbs (& there are on most) then they should fill out otherwise, the limbs will die back to the trunk & never regrow.

The 2nd one said the limbs would need to be cut back to the trunk in order to regrow but that it would take many years.

Both agreed that this is not the way redwoods should be pruned.

A couple sites I read said redwoods never need pruning nor should they be as it makes them more susceptible to wind & instability (danger of toppling over).
If you do prune, thin by removing 1 in every 5 branches throughout the tree, never prune out of season or remove a large # of branches from one single area of the tree as it die.
Another said it won't die as long as 50% of it remains.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 6:56PM
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One said if green leaves are remaining on the sawn limbs (& there are on most) then they should fill out otherwise, the limbs will die back to the trunk & never regrow.

The 2nd one said the limbs would need to be cut back to the trunk in order to regrow but that it would take many years.

Arborists told you this?? Really?? Oyyyy!!

You may get some sporadic regrowth from the aforementioned adventitious buds along the cut stubs but not enough to fill in effectively and certainly nothing that would "regrow" the stubs. Even if cut back to the trunk or branch collar. Cut branchs do not regrow.

Tom's comments about removing a few branches to even things up makes some sense. But let's get a real professional in to do this. I'm not at all sure the tree guys you have been communicating with are worth your time and money.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 7:10PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

You are surrounded by idiots and your neighbor paid crooks to do the job.

Ug. :(

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 8:10PM
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In general I'd agree with the critique above; however, Redwood is a remarkable exception to the rule that conifers don't regrow from cut branches - it does, and does so very well. You can expect new foliage along the full lengths of all of the cut branches, which will gradually fill out over a few years.

They do this as an adaptation to forest fires; a photo of branch regrowth following a severe canopy fire (the 2003 Canoe Fire); ; and showing dead fire-killed Douglas-firs and recovering Redwoods.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 8:41PM
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So a bit like Jap. yews then? Not the fire adaptation, but the ability to regrow from stubbed off branches?

I'd almost-if these were my trees-want the stubs gone. From what I can tell in the pics, the worst-looking aspect is that of all those stubs. There's a few big Norway spruce in town that were treated that way. P*sses me off every time I have to see them. I suppose I'm not really sure about this as it's been so many years, but it seems like even before I knew anything about trimming trees, I'd have known better than to leave stubs.

And too, those recommending a different set of hands on the job from here on out are correct. I'd ask the neighbor to finance my own hiring of an actual arborist to come clean things up.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 10:17PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

No good arborist should ever leave stubs like that. They should never be permitted to prune a tree again.

That said, it would indeed appear that they will attempt to grow back, you'll just have to wait and see.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 1:19AM
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I appreciate all your help & advice!

Spoke to another arborist today.
He said trimming the stubs back to the trunk is best
due to possible insect infestation.
But given that the cut limbs have some foliage remaining on them, they will eventually fill out (the stubs won't grow but will continue to branch & leaf out) & fill in some of the unsightly gaps over time.

He said redwoods are pretty hardy trees & I shouldn't worry about the one falling over, especially since there are 2 others nearby to help serve as a windbreak & the roots are all entertwined.

While the stubs are unsightly, I think they look better than just having big gaping holes all along one side of the trunk. Since they won't grow back at all if I cut them even with the trunk, I'd rather leave them & let them branch out & leaf & just hope the insects don't take over.
If I thin the rest of the tree to match, there won't be much of anything left & it'll only look worse.

I'm so pissed that my neighbor did this.
He says it was an accident, nonetheless the damage is done.
He knows how much I love these trees. It's really the reason I bought this house. I see my back yard as a santuary of sorts. A little slice of the Sierras just outside my window. I love nature..
I read that shade is not considered a nuisance so he really had no legal right to do this. I was just trying to do the right thing by my neighbor. Lesson learned.

Thanks so much for your help & advice.. :)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 8:49PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

A gap is much better looking than any stub.
Stubs are the first sign of an amateur pruner.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:53PM
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A gap that spans 1/2 the whole side of a tree?
I don't see how that would be more attractive than stubs with some branches & leaves on them.
Unfortunately, the tree was not pruned, it was butchered on one side.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 3:19PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I'm going to assume you did not plant those, they were there long before you moved into your home. I also assume the property line is at your fence line.

What I see are potentially enormous trees planted right on the property line. Your neighbor has the legal right to prune everything on his side right back to the property line, but no farther. That may have been exactly what he did: follow the law.

While I think it is a poor pruning job, I think this also illustrates the problems that result from planting big trees right along a property line. It's not good for neighbor relations, and for sure not good for the trees!

The neighbor is probably dealing with a huge root system on his side of the fence, too. It may be rendering part of his yard unplantable. While I sympathise with you, and the trees, I see the neighbor's dilemma as well.

The moral of the story is to know the mature size of what you are planting (not the OP, but the original planters of those redwoods) and be reasonably considerate of your neighbors, and your trees, and your fence. A little late for that now, but for other's future reference...

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:08PM
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Cyndi, do as thou wilt. But if these were mine, those stubs would already be gone! Just can't stand the site of branch stubs, knowing as I do how inappropriate it is to "prune" a tree that way.

Besides, tree trunks are not unattractive. Sometimes I get the feeling that folks on the forum believe that to be so. And especially cinnamon-red trunks of big conifers.....they look great!


    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 5:56PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I agree with +om. Coast Redwood tree trunks are very good looking....if they don't have a bunch of stubs.
Just because it's not 'balanced' doesn't mean it doesn't look good. A landscape with all 'balanced' trees looks a lot like those plastic trees you see with a cheap model railroad layout.
I think your neighbor instructed those workers to trim the branches that way. He knew he was trimming them more than he asked for, so he kept it legal by not cutting anything over the line and had them leave stubs. Any professional would not leave stubs unless specifically asked to, and even then, the customer would hear a stiff argument.
Stubs hurt my eyes. Even loggers call short stubs, Pig Ears.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 6:49PM
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Thanks for your input & advice.
It is much appreciated!

I believe the trees are as old as the house: 25 yrs.
I just bought this house & moved in a few mos go.
I agree they were planted too close to the fenceline. This one in particular may be 1/2 my neighbor's tree & 1/2 mine.
I imagine I'll have to deal with the fence issue sometime soon..

My other neighbor (who happens to be a landscaper) has 3 in one corner of his yard also. I showed him the stubbing on my one & he said don't worry none, it'll fill in & begin to look better & I needn't worry about insects or it falling over. They're very hardy trees & recover well.

He did point out some brown leaves & branches on all my redwoods & said it's an indication they didn't get adaquate water this past summer. Recommended I get a soaker hose & deep water the roots really well. He said it's especially important to do this beginning of spring because they'll suck the ground dry fast trying to support all the new growth.

I know neighbors can legally prune up to the property line but I read they aren't supposed to do it in such a manner that it injures, kills or destroys the appearance of a tree & that shade from adjacent trees is not considered a public nuisance.

Since it appears they'll recover & may even look halfway decent again from my side & there's no danger of them falling over I'm not nearly as upset as I originally was.
I was mortified when I saw what was done & maybe I overreacted. I'm just very relieved they aren't going to sicken & die as a result. I love these trees!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 8:02PM
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