Removing a Limb from a Tree

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What is the best way to deal with broken tree branches from icy weather?

It is best to allow the damaged tree to thaw before attempting to work with it as your efforts may produce more damage. Do not attempt to remove ice by striking the branches. Trees are fairly brittle in winter; and with the added rigidity of the ice, you will break more branches than you will save.

The primary factor in your decision for dealing with the tree is safety. Is the tree damaged to the point that removing the limb is a hazardous task? If so, then you should consider hiring a Certified Arborist to help with the situation. Is it a tree that, by nature has weak branches? If the answers are yes, then the best decision may be to remove the tree.

Proper pruning will allow a damaged, but otherwise healthy tree to safely recover after a storm. Branches that have been pruned correctly will form a large callus, which seals the wound and prevents disease. If your decision is to prune, the first step is to make sure your tools are clean and sharp. Sanitize pruning tools in a 1 to 10 mixture of bleach and water. Sharpen the leading edges, and then oil to prevent rust.


Cut larger branches using a three-step method so the bark will not tear away from the tree below the limb. Make your first cut from the underside of the branch about one foot from the trunk, cutting approximately 1/3 of the way through the branch. Make the second cut just beyond the first cut, removing the entire branch. Make the final cut just outside of the collar of the branch. The collar is the raised ring of protective tissue circling the branch where it connects to the rest of the tree. Do not cut into the collar or prune flush to the main branch as this will damage the tree’s circulatory system. Do not leave the stub of the branch sticking out past the collar as this will prevent the wound from healing quickly and will encourage fungus and insects.

If the top of the tree is damaged requiring removal, make repairs by cutting the branch at about a 45-degree angle on the main trunk. This will prevent water from pooling on the wood. Make the cut below the break and above the next live branch that is at least 1/3 the size of the broken trunk. Many hardwoods are specially equipped to recover from damage to the crown. Do not cover wounds with prepared compounds. Trees have their own protective mechanisms that will efficiently seal the wound.

When pruning trees always be careful of power lines. And remember, if the job looks too large or dangerous; it probably is. Consider carefully and hire a professional. Always trust your trees to a Certified Arborist.