March 12, 2019

Truffula Trees…or Woodbutchery?

It must be something about this time of year: driving around Atlanta I see so many trees that look as though they would be better suited to illustrate a book by Dr. Seuss!  Perhaps it is the trunks and branches which are devoid of leaves that reveal the wildest and woolliest examples of tree pruning imaginable.  Were he alive today, Dr. Seuss could certainly find a great deal of fodder for his books just by driving around the south.  The collection of recent photos here clearly illustrates the concept.

What could possibly possess someone to commit “woodbutchery” to a perfectly healthy tree?  One might suggest cabin fever – an overwhelming desire to get out of the house and chop something.  With all of the rain we have had last fall and through this point of the winter, cabin fever is a real possibility.  Somewhat related to this theory is that of pent up frustration or stress relief.  Some people deal with this by yelling at other drivers on the road; others may do so by swatting a golf ball around 18 holes (though this might be more of a source of frustration than a release of it!); but could it be possible that someone would deal with this by taking pruning tools to a defenseless tree?

No tree takes a worse beating in this regard than the poor, lowly Crapemyrtle (see our Blog: “Considering the Much Maligned Crapemyrtle”, January 25, 2017).  A photo or two of those are also shown here, but I’m sure you all have your favorites!  Many of us have become numb to the fate of the common Crapemyrtle since the malpractice is so widespread.  Even more shocking is to see woodbutchery applied to other species – even to mature shade trees!  Oh, the inhumanity!

For those of you who might remember the famous Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax was the character that emerged from the stump of the first of the Truffula trees to be cut down in an effort to make something that everyone wanted but nobody needed.  And while this writer and Downey Trees believe that every avenue should be exhausted before any tree is cut down, in the case of the Dr. Seuss trees shown here, we would surely have to debate the mindset of the Lorax.  Why, you might ask?  Well, quite unlike the Truffula trees, with their tufts “softer than silk” and their “sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk”, woodbutchered trees are doomed to produce massive tufts of bristly branches, and the only thing the fragrance of those numerous and massive pruning cuts will attract are swarms of insect pests wanting to attack a severely wounded tree.  So, summarizing the consequences of woodbutchery:

  • Massive Wounding- often the extent of pruning that takes place exceeds the 20-25% maximum recommended when pruning a tree.
  • Large wounds take longer to seal with callus tissue.
  • Unsealed wounds release pheromones into the air that signal attacking insects such as Asian Ambrosia Beetle and other wood boring insects that an easy meal or homesite is nearby.
  • Unsealed wounds also offer easy entry into the tree for fungal and bacterial disease pathogens.
  • Cutting trees back encourages massive lateral budding and branching.  Such growth promotes weak branch unions and misshapen trees that are difficult to maintain and often become increasingly hazardous over time.
  • Trees pruned in such a manner lose their aesthetic appeal and usurp the purpose for which they were originally installed in the landscape.

The Lorax popped up out of the stump to try to save the doomed Truffula Trees.  The Truffula trees were beautiful, unique, kept the environment clean, and provided habitat for all kinds of weird critters that could only come from the mind of Dr. Seuss.  The trees of woodbutchery can boast none of the attributes described above – they are ugly, common, and basically functionless as a beneficial tree.  The only habitat provided by such trees is a landing zone for insect pests and plant diseases.

We never really decided on a good reason for woodbutchery.  However, based on common observation, the 2 most compelling reasons seem to be:

  1. Uncovering something that the property owner wants seen, such as a business front or a sign.
  2. Reducing the size of an overgrown tree for fear that it might damage property or people with falling limbs or failing trunks. This reason relates to SIZE. The problem of size is easily remedied by simply finishing the job started with the woodbutchery: cutting the tree down and replacing it with a tree with a mature size that will fit the space allotted for it. In virtually any situation, a properly selected tree will enhance the look of a property without obscuring what is desired to be seen. Several of the Arborists at Downey Trees are also skilled Horticulturists that can assist you with a tree variety that will insure the right plant in the right place.

So, don’t be guilty of woodbutchery!  Dr. Seuss needs no more inspiration for the odd trees in his books.  The Arborists at Downey Trees can also help you with a solution to a tree that may have outgrown its space, one that hides a desired view, or another that may be the victim of poor pruning practices in the past.  The ultimate solution, however, may well be to put the tree out of its misery.  Like the Lorax, we will do everything we can to prevent cutting down the Truffula tree on your property.  But if the woodbutchery has taken an excessive toll, we can certainly be there for you to help you finish the job!

March 12, 2019