Posted on: 19 March 2020
A large, broken branch on a tree can be concerning, especially if it's a scaffolding branch that supports the balance of the canopy. How you address the branch depends on its size, location, and the damage. The following can help guide your tree care decisions.
1. Tip Breakage
When only part of the branch breaks but the main part of the branch is still firmly attached to the trunk and alive, then a pruning repair is necessary. Cut off the damaged portion of the branch. Use bypass shears if the portion of the branch you are cutting through is smaller than your thumb; use a pruning saw it it is larger. The cut should be made just forward of a leaf or a bud on the branch so that there is an active growing node still present near the tip of the branch.
2. Full Removal
When little more than a stub is left after the breakage, full removal is typically the better option. Around the base of the branch, you will notice a slightly enlarged collar of wood. Make your pruning cut flush to this collar. The collar will slowly grow and close over the wound from the branch removal, thus healing the tree. You may also need to thin out the rest of the canopy if it is unbalanced after the removal of a larger branch.
3. Torn Bark
Sometimes when a large branch breaks it tears the bark on the trunk as it falls. The bark wound that is left behind is more likely to harm the tree than the loss of the branch. You can increase the chances of survival by cleaning up the damaged bark. Using a sharp, clean knife, cut away the ragged edges of bark to create a smooth edge. Curve as you trim the bark so that there are no corners in the removed area—this speeds healing.
A branch can be more than a branch. Some trees have large branches that almost act as a second trunk. When these break off, it may be more like the trunk split rather than a branch was lost. If the branch is still partially connected to the trunk, it can sometimes be repaired. The branch is carefully lifted back into place and it is bolted to the trunk with a long screw. Then, tree wrap is wound around the branch and trunk like a bandage. Over time, the tree may heal over the split, repairing itself. The wrap will be removed, but the bolt is left in place.
Contact a tree care service for more help.