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Restoring broken canopies

broken canopyLike topped and lions-tailed trees, those recently damaged by storms will develop water sprouts in the months following the storm. These often develop at or near the tips of the broken branches. Most of the branch tips were broken in an ice storm and are producing sprouts in the photo at right. Sprouting is an attempt by the tree to replace the photosynthesis-generating foliage that was removed suddenly. Sprouting requires expenditure of stored starch (energy) inside the living wood of the tree and weakens the tree. However, sprouting is essential for recovery because it replaces the energy (starch and other storage compounds) reserves. Sprouts should be allowed to grow for several years without pruning so energy reserves can be replaced! Once sprouts have grown for several years they begin competing for the same space and should be reduced in number.

Treatment: Save several sprouts spaced apart (12 inches apart if possible) from each other that appear to be capable of growing into strong limbs. The ones you save should have plenty of lateral branches and perhaps a slight swelling or collar where it meets the broken branch. Remove one-third of the others and shorten one-third of the others to allow the saved ones to develop lateral branches and good taper. This prevents all the sprouts from growing too long and becoming weak. You may have to return several times during a ten-year period to put good structure back into the tree. Some broken branches can be removed entirely if they have weak connections or are crowding branches in more desirable positions. See: detailed illustration.