When Branches Don’t Pull Their Weight: How Trees Self Prune and Why It Can Be Hazardous to You or Your Home

Whether your tree is a specimen tree, serving as a focal point of your garden, or a shade provider, it can be an alarming sight to see one or more dead branches in its canopy. However, dead branches are not always a sign of disease or damage. Your tree may simply be self-pruning in order to rid itself of branches that have become too much of a burden.

When investigating your tree to determine the cause of dead branches, if there is no sign of infection and no obvious damage, then your tree may be self-pruning itself.

Learn Why Trees Self-Prune

As trees grow, they continually monitor the productivity of their branches to ensure maximum output. If a branch no longer produces enough food through photosynthesis, then the tree stops sending food to that branch. The branch eventually dies. On larger trees, this can put people, pets, property and the surrounding area at risk as the dead branch will later fall to the ground.

Shade intolerant trees, such as pecans, butternuts and sycamores, self-prune their lower branches whenever there isn't enough sunlight available. They may also self-prune branches if a nearby structure or tree is cutting off valuable sunlight to that branch. 

Hire an Arborist to Assess Your Tree

If your tree is mature, its branches may well be big enough to cause considerable damage to your home should they fall. However, healthy branches don't just fall out of the blue—but dead branches do.

You can prune smaller trees yourself if the branches are within reach and if you have some experience with how to ensure a tree stays healthy; however, if your tree is a mature eucalyptus or oak, for example, you should call a professional arborist. An arborist can help you to determine both the health of the tree and the risk posed by any dead branches in its canopy.

With Mature Trees Close to Your Home, You Have Two Choices

Because of their size, mature trees that self-prune are not just dangerous, but they can also cost you a considerable sum of money should their branches fall on your or your neighbour's home. If you choose to keep the tree, even if an aborist removes the threat of falling dead branches, your tree may well choose to self-prune again in a year or two. This eventuality means that those branches could well come down in high winds during the next storm season. Because of this, you should consider having the tree removed before it damages your home, though make sure you work with tree removal professionals before deciding to remove a tree on your own.