High canopy lifts contribute to tree failure?

Was on my way to give an estimate in a small development on the edge of Jonesboro and Fayetteville when I saw this magnolia tree. The sad thing about this is this tree had excellent apical dominance and was a very healthy tree. It has been butchered, incorrectly pruned. All of the lower limbs have been removed, a “canopy lift”. Canopy lifts are a pruning technique we often execute to accomplish several objectives. To decrease the shadow of the tree to promote sunlight onto turf, or to increase visibility for security reasons, or to promote the view of a home, business or perhaps a lake. All can be appropriate and done correctly. Some things to take into consideration when lifting the canopy of a tree. Removing limbs to an extreme height inhibits the development of trunk taper. Ok in laymen a terms: each of these lower limbs grow in thickness, they originate within the trunk and as they grow in thickness, girth, as does the trunk itself. The trunk supports the rest of the tree and needs girth which gives strength to the tree to hold it up. Lifting the limbs up so high is like a guy at the gym who lifts chest and arms all day but has little legs

This can also contribute to a cantalever effect in high winds, causing the tree to break at the skinny trunk. Physics would say that it takes more force to move more mass. Remove a lot of mass, leaving only a sail of branches higher up increases the chance of failure. And at the end of the day also makes the tree look like crap. Not to mention issues of removing improper ratios of living growth that can lead to lowered food production in the tree and leading to poor tree health.

Aaron Capannelli

ISA Certified Arborist SO-7129A