ClickCease Lion-tailing or gutting a tree - Arborist Now

Gutting is for Fish, Not for Trees

Lion’s tailing is the “gutting" of a tree by removing a large number of the inner branches. 

The limbs of the tree look like a lion’s tail after pruning. The limbs will appear “long and slender" with a “puff" of foliage at the end, like the tuft on the end of a lion’s tail. While this does not look as bad as topping – the process of removing whole tops of trees – the results do not look like a well-maintained tree.

Lion-tailing is a common form of over-pruning. It is very important to maintain well-spaced inner lateral branches when it comes top pruning your trees. Even distribution of foliage along any given branch is absolutely necessary and is very important. Lion-tailing occurs when a tree is essentially stripped of most or all of its interior branches and foliage while only leaving just a minimal amount of growth at the end of the branch.

Lion’s tailing is also hazardous. As all of the weight is concentrated on the ends of the branches, the majority of the new growth is added on these bushy ends. If a tree’s branching structure in does not support evenly distributed weight, much more stress in placed on the branch, allowing more breakage to likely occur.  

Often as much as 50 to 75 percent of tree foliage is removed. This unfortunate practice is becoming as common place. If it looks unnatural, or over-thinned it probably is. The result is unhealthy and structurally weakened trees. Trees need leaves to survive! 

Lion-tailing results in:

  • End heavy branches
  • Branch failure and breakage
  • Sun scalding
  • Rapid sucker growth
  • Rotting and cracks
  • Increased disease and insect vulnerability
  • Severe stress

Why is it wrong?

  • The tree’s food supply is reduced by removing a large percentage of the leaves used for photosynthesis
  • Over pruning causes a stress reaction called epicormic sprouting, water sprouts or suckers, causing a cluster branches to grow along the trunk and limbs, leading to weak branch unions and poor overall structure.
  • Long, leafless branches are susceptible to breakage and splitting when wind, snow and ice events happen.

What can be done?

A tree can recover from lion-tailing if the sprouts are allowed to develop into branches and then are reduced slightly and spaced along the branch.

The proper pruning technique is vital. Hat-racked (topping) and over-lifting (removal of too many bottom branches) and lion's-tailing (gutting) pruning styles are justifiably considered malpractice in arboriculture.

Good pruning is basically an art - the end result is subtle. The finished product should be understated and natural looking difference. At first glance, the pruning work should go unnoticed.

Want the best results from the tree company hired to prune your trees . . . the bottom line is communication. Outline in writing, what you want and what you do not want. Never assume that the hired worker instinctively knows exactly what you want, even if the worker is a certified arborist. Misunderstanding can and do occur.

Trust the professionals at Arborist Now to review their plan of action to prune your trees and to ensure that your questions and concerns are answered. Contact us today for an appointment.  

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