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Clarifying usage of grades and standards: leader

Frustrating issue: Only shade trees with straight leaders are allowed, a dominant leader is not enough.

What grades and standards says: The document says on page 3 that "Live oak and some other trees can have a modified dominant leader as shown in Figure 1 on page 10." Page 10 goes on to say for Florida Fancy "There is one trunk, more or less in the center of the tree as shown above. Some trees such as Chinese elm, live oak, royal poinciana, Jerusalem thorn, mahogany and some others can be grown with a modified (not straight) trunk as shown." The Grades and Standards update available at here states on page 1 that "If the trunk divides in two nearly equal-diameter stems in the upper 10% of the tree, the trunk is not downgraded to a Florida #1."

The document says for Florida #1: "The trunk branches (forks) into two nearly equal-diameter trunks in the upper 1/2 of the tree. (If one trunk is 2/3 or less than the diameter of the other trunk, they do not have equal diameters, making the trunk Florida Fancy.) A noticeable but small void will be left in the crown after removing the top portion of one of the trunks. If there is one trunk, but it has a 5 to 15 degree bow, grade it Florida #1." In other words the document allows up to a 15 degree bow for a Florida #1.

Summary statement: The grades and standards document says that shade trees do not have to have straight trunks in order to meet Florida #1 grade. It says that a dominant leader is enough. If a buyer wants the trunk to be straight then state that in the plant specifications for nursery stock. The word "straight" should be defined very specifically because the Grades and Standards document does not define straight since it is not part of the grading process. The document allows for subordinating (pruning) one of the two codominant stems in the top half of the tree.