Crape Myrtle Crossing Trunks

bjb817December 18, 2013

So I inherited three CM's with my new house that are approximately 12 years old. I highly doubt they've ever been pruned judging by the branching.

Two of the three I've been able to limb up/clean up satisfactorily. One still has two main trunks that cross badly near the base. I'm afraid if I eliminate these two offending trunks, it'll be too unbalanced and sparse.

I want to do my best to enhance the long term health and vigor of the tree without compromising its appearance too much.

Thoughts?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Without a picture, it's hard to know what to suggest. Until I saw it, my advise (based on what you've said so far) would be to leave it as/is. If you did remove a trunk, you'd almost surely get plenty of suckers and could choose one or two as replacement trunks. The downsides of that is that (1) they'd be much smaller for quite a while and (2) you'd probably be dealing with lots of suckers for at least a year or two. Post a pictures or two and we can give you more informed info.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:55PM
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bjb817

Whole tree

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:39AM
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bjb817

Shot of base

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:40AM
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bjb817

Shot of base-different angle

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:42AM
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j0nd03

I would leave it alone. It isn't going to be a large forest tree so any eventual structural concerns can be ignored. Those crossing branches might eventually fuse into one another. Even if they don't, it shouldn't harm the tree/shrub for a very long time if ever.

If you just had to remove one, pick that smallest one and cut it flush with the trunk just below where it begins to cross the larger branch. The shrub will compensate in the canopy and after a couple years you won't be able to tell the cut was made by the canopy density. As Brandon stated, this will cause it to sucker most likely and that is something you will have to address as it arises.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 11:36AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I basically agree with j0nd03. The two minor changes I would make are:
(1.) It is somewhat uncommon, in my experience, for crape myrtle trunks to truly fuse. Maybe some do, but it's not common.
(2.) If you do decide to remove one of the trunks, I would suggest making the cut above ground level but as low as possible without damaging other trunks, etc.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 7:08PM
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j0nd03

Brandon, you are the crApe expert here ;-)

Question - if one was to injure the bark on both stems along the boundary they touch, when the callus tissue forms, would it be more likely to fuse than if left alone? Just thinking out loud and curious!

John the (still) newb

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 7:44PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I don't know, but, if I had to bet, I'd bet that symmetrical wounding (where the wounds were touching or very near each other, like might happen if branches were moving and rubbing against each other) would increase the likelihood of inosculation. It would also increase the likelihood of pathogens entering the wood and eventual rot, though.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 9:15PM
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bjb817

If you look at the biggest in the center on the last pic, that was actually a spot where two trunks had fused. So, I'd have to say, yes it can happen. I was just always the impression that was a bad thing with CM's.

As long as it's not going to cause any long term structural issues, I think I'll stop where I'm at. I did remove several badly crossing trunks already, so it's certainly better than it was.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 10:45PM
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bjb817

If you look at the biggest in the center on the last pic, that was actually a spot where two trunks had fused. So, I'd have to say, yes it can happen. I was just always the impression that was a bad thing with CM's.

As long as it's not going to cause any long term structural issues, I think I'll stop where I'm at. I did remove several badly crossing trunks already, so it's certainly better than it was.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 10:47PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"If you look at the biggest in the center on the last pic, that was actually a spot where two trunks had fused."

It's hard to tell much from the pictures. So, you had to saw the branches apart? Like I said, the pictures aren't easy to interpret, but the pattern that I think you are talking about appears to wrap around the tree.

"I was just always the impression that was a bad thing with CM's."

Why do you think it would be a bad thing for the branches to fuse?

"As long as it's not going to cause any long term structural issues."

If the branches do not fuse and keep growing, there will eventually be a compromised area where the branches grow next to each other. The key to that, though, is what j0nd03 said: you won't have to worry as much about structural failure like you would in the case of a large shade tree, and, any problems are not likely to occur for quite some time. By the time there is a problem from the rubbing branches, the plant may be dead, you may have relandscaped, or who knows what. I just wouldn't worry about it.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 11:29PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i know NOTHING.. absolutely nothing about CM ... do you think that will stop me????

NOOOO!!!!!

why are you applying TREE rules.. to a flowering SHRUB????

first off... worst pics ever.. what did you use.. an etch-a-sketch ..... lol ... but they are good enough ... and i hope you have a sense of humor ... lol

first.. whats your hurry ...

second.. how much of the canopy have you already removed... 25% ... 40% .. how about you step away ... for this year.. and see how it looks next year... never forget.. there is no real hurry with pruning ...

third.. and it is not some 100 foot oak.. hanging over your house.. ready to kill you in your sleep.. so what if this rubbing branch rots out in 20 or 30 years .. so what.. it will fall to the ground ...

4th ... i really think.. during observation nest summer .. and many adult beverages.. while sitting on your deck pondering this thing.. that you think about totally renovating this thing ... what was originally planted.. to hide an ugly fence.. is now.. basically above the fence ... mind you.. hiding the house behind ... but thru proper REJUVENATION PRUNING ... you could have it hiding the fence and the house ... there is no reason it needs bare knees ... pruning done right ...

what you havent done here is .. and mind you.. i havent read all the posts and replies.. but again.. that wont stop me.. lol ... is define.. precisely.. what your goal is.. other than to use your saw ...

i know there are a multitude of forms of CM .... what is your ultimate goal ...

again ... this can be cut next fall ... or after bloom.. find out how well you have done so far ...

in summation.. whats your hurry ....

ken

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 1:35PM
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bjb817

Yes, I actually had to saw them apart. I'll be honest, removing crossing branches is something that always seems to be advised in the Crape Myrtle pruning advice I've found online. I'd assumed it makes the area more prone to disease? As dumb as it sounds, it just didn't seem like a good thing.

I know worst case you can cut it to the ground and start over, but I'd really prefer not to do that. Our backyard is a mess and by the time I clean things up, we'll be mostly starting from scratch. I'd at least like to have these CM's.

To me, the larger varieties of CM's like these are a multi trunked tree, not a shrub. So, to me it seems logical to apply tree pruning rules to a small tree. :^) I like to be able to walk under a tree without hitting my head, so that's why it's pruned up to 6' roughly.

I'm definitely done for this year. I'd estimate I've probably removed about 1/3 of the branches. Mostly it was taking off lower ones to limb it up, but also ones that were rubbing. Several of them were growing into the fence, so that was an issue too.

I may plant some evergreen mid sized shrubs to hide the fence. When the leaves are on, I believe the CM's will still hide quite a bit of the view into the neighbor's yard.

So what's my hurry? To get some semblance of order in this mess of a yard I inherited. I'm just ADD/OCD like that...

Hopefully this pic of the whole shrub is more clear. I just got a new phone and haven't figured out how to properly resize pics, etc...

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 11:40PM
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