Thursday, February 5, 2009

Multi-Trunked Trees

Do you have multi-trunked trees in your garden? I have a few, but not really by choice. The pictured silver maple was already seriously multi-trunked when we purchased the house back in 2001. I like the effect, but not the problems multi-trunked trees bring to the home gardener. Most any tree can possibly be multi-trunked, but you should consider the structural quality of multi-trunked trees when allowing the additional trunks to grow. I have found the multi-trunks come from suckers that start at the base of the tree. If the homeowner is not vigilant in pruning those suckers out of the tree, they will wind up with something like I have. While it is not unattractive, it is worrisome. Only so many trunks will fit into the space before they begin to grow together. Perhaps this is normal, not really sure.

It seems maples are most prone to this suckering and have a propensity to grow multiple trunks; which is okay if you can keep up on the growth habit of the trunks. The problem I find is that the trunks get too big and crowd each other out at the base, perhaps making the tree a bit weaker and unstable.

I do not like this situation at all. But what can I do? I certainly do not want to mangle the tree by taking out one or two trunks, yet I worry Mother Nature will do it for me if I don't. Note the far left trunk is resting on the privacy fence. That trunk will for sure have to be removed at some point, or the fence will come down.

What are your suggestions to deal with this problem? Any ideas? I do love multi-trunked birches, and I guess to a certain extent the crepes, perhaps even maples, but I think this particular silver maple has too many. What do you say? Anyone else have this problem?

in the garden....contemplating multi-trunked trees.

41 comments:

  1. Good morning Tina,
    I am not sure what I would do... except try to prune out one of the center trunks. I will be seeing the pruning master this morning, I can pose the question to him.
    Janet

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  2. Good morning! You do have a dilemma on your hands. I am no help in this one and those trunks look way to large to cut. The one touching the fence will have to come down before damage to the fence. Urg, good luck....

    We have some multi trunked trees but they only seem to have 2 trunks. Some trees have grown too close to others thus looking like multi trunks also. We are thinking of thinning out our woods by taking out all the small trees. They are not receiving enough light and dying. The woodpeckers like them but we hate them falling down all the time with disease plus we fear they may promote disease or termites to healthy trees. We cut up three this past weekend that have fallen over the past month of winds….

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  3. Hi Ms. Tina. I don't have the kind of problem with a multi-trunk that you have with that silver maple, although our pee gee hydrangeas come close. I have a white birch with three, but of those three, I think only one of them is the main trunk. I'm not an arborist so I can offer much advice about trees. I suggest contacting one of your Master Gardener friends and see if they can put you in touch with a local arborist.

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  4. I have a white birch I let 5 suckers grow 17 years ago, they are very big along with the main part of the trunk, that's the problem for me too big. I have no idea what to do about it, my tree is so big it needs to come out. I think it does weaken the tree and not that great for them.

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  5. That's a problem. We don't have any--my husband is so afraid of multi-trunks, we have always been careful not to buy one..and where we live there were no trees so we planted all of ours ourself.
    Actually--I think they are kind of pretty! (but don't tell hubby!) :)
    Have a great day Tina!

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  6. Good Morning Everyone,
    I hope all are safe & warm this very cold morning.
    I don't have an answer for your problem.
    I have a double trunked oak tree in my back yard. I don't like the multiply trunked trees as I think it weakens them. I fear mine is dying as it has a hole at the base going under & up. The limbs keep falling also. That is the only large natural tree that I have & I would hate to loose it. I only have 5 other trees that I planted & they are very small. 3 of these are fruit bearing.
    I hope all have a very nice day.

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  7. Tina,
    I don't know the solution to a mature tree. It takes some work to keep the new trees free of suckers. The only large trees are in our woods and natural.

    Of our ornamental trees, we fight the suckers on the crape myrtles, but like 3 trunks on those for interest. We have to cut off the suckers at least twice a year. Our Japanese Maple is fine, but our river birch are multi-trunked (they are weak trees, too).

    Cameron

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  8. Hi Tina,

    None of the big trees in our yard are multi-trunked, just the smaller ones like redbuds that are beautiful and easier too manage if they become a problem.

    I have seen cutouts in fences to allow for trees...if it's a property line issue...but if it's a safety/tree health issue I might be calling an arborist for an opinion.

    Good luck..that is a big tree.

    Gail

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  9. That is certainly something to keep an eye on. We have a multi-trunked Oak Tree, but it is free standing up on the hill. I guess you could cut the trunk that's leaning on the fence down level with the ground? ? ?

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  10. Janet, Yes, do please ask him. You see these trunks just keep getting bigger. Not a problem I caused-I have prevented many more from growing but now the tree is quite healthy so I have to deal with these big guys.

    Skeeter, What kind of trees are you planning to take out? It is normal for wooded areas to have small trees, some make it, some don't. If you do take them all out I would replant with understory trees like dogwoods, redbuds, J. maples, maybe some paw paws, and some more I am not thinking of right now. Trees that can do with shade. Dogwoods are the obvious ones.

    TC, Thanks! This tree is really something else, interesting but a bit of a concern too. I'll see what I can find out.

    Dawn, Those birch trees are notorious for multi trunks for sure. I have a river birch I am training to three but you really have to watch it. Hopefully yours will be okay.

    Linda, I think the most rewarding part of gardening is being able to plant a tree and mold it as it grows. Lucky you guys! Your husband is pretty smart to prevent the multi trunks.

    Lola, Those oaks tend to do it too and do you know I saw a lot of whole oak trunks that simply fell over in the ice storm. No root damage. I am sure yours will be fine as you don't get too many ice storms down there. Lucky you to have an oak for shade in sunny Florida.

    Cameron, Yes those suckers are a never ending job. I trim all my trees but couldn't help this mature silver maple. So far it is doing well. It is actually in better shape now than when we moved in. What a mess. Crabapples are bad with suckers too. Have you cut your grasses yet? I am so late on mine. I added that into my list as I think I had left it off. Today is a good garden day to do it I am thinking.

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  11. Gail, Thanks! I am surprised you don't have multi trunked trees with all your trees. They are attractive but worrisome. I may just call someone. I made it to the nursery. Didn't find anything.

    Darla, Yes, that will be the solution at some point. It will be difficult though and I hate to do it. Oaks tend to get multi trunked too. I have a few and there is not much to do with them either. Just watch them I guess. At least yours is a bit away.

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  12. Hi Tina, your tree has more trunks than a heard of elephants...boo, I know--something I just thought up while I typed the sentence:)

    We have a bunch of Poplar trees which multi trunks. They are all the same height--quite tall. They could be a problem if they become extremely unbalanced and heavier on one side, bringing the other one down with it; also, the center area where the trunks grow up from tends to begin to look like it's rotting somewhat, but so far, ours our ok. We've had them looked at by an arborist who said they should come down at some point...but we like 'em and it costs a whole lot of $$$ to take that many trees down at once. Like Cameron, we have Crepe Myrtles too, and they grow out a bunch of suckers that we clip a couple of times a yr. so they don't grow up to be limbs! Good luck with yours!

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  13. Hi Tina, I have the exact same mulit trunk silver maple. I love it but know it makes for a less stable tree. It is close to the house too. I had an arborist remove some hackberries that had joined the muli trunks of the maple somehow. We drilled holes in the stump and poured straight undiluted round up in the holes since we could not grind the stump without damaging the maple. We had the tree limbed up also, to removed the weight of horizontal branches. It may need more work in the future, but it worth it for the shade it provides, it's all we have!
    Frances

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  14. Dear Tina,

    So sorry...that is because I bought it all! They haven't the assortment they normally do. You passed on the Lights azaleas in the back corner? I went back for more and bought the White Lights and another climbing aster for a friend. In the spring they had the best assortment of affordable annuals and herbs going.

    No multi-trunk trees...and we wanted some for treehouse building and climbing!

    Gail

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  15. Hi Tina, we have a multi-trunked river birch just planted last spring. I love it even though it hasn't yet developed that distinctive peeling bark.

    One of our silver maple's trunks splits in half about four feet above the ground. One of those halves curves sharply, becoming very long and horizontal. I've wondered about the tree's structural integrity. Fortunately if it did come down it would be over open lawn. I can't imagine pruning it though - it would definitely look mangled and very unbalanced if we did.

    Hopefully you can find a good solution for your silver maple - looks like it must give you tons of shade!

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  16. You've touched on a very interesting subject, Tina. We have some multitrunked birches out back and I've been studying them, trying to decide what to do about them. I'm thinking I'll take one completely down (there's a mini-thicket of about 7 trees) because they're not that old, maybe 20 years, and it's better to thin them out before they get bigger. But in your case, wow...it might be time to consult a pro.

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  17. They do look nice, even if they are problematic. We have a city owned Bradford pear in the easement by the street, and it's constant suckering drives me crazy. I'm always out there trimming away the extras!

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  18. That's a tough one. The tree must have fallen over or been cut down at some point, and sprang back up with several trunks. The only straight one is the one right next to the fence.

    Silver Maples are known for being weak-wooded no matter what, but that construct is probably not as weak as you think.

    In other words, no matter what you do, in a severe storm the tree could break up or fall over. It's the nature of Silver Maples.

    I am working on a Signature Plant post and will send along a link when I'm done with it. That's a great idea for a neme.

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  19. I don't know the answer Tina. I would have to call in an arborist. I can see the dilemma tho. I have Aspen tree suckers that come up everywhere in my yard and need to be pruned out. One of the Aspens (planted before I bought the house) is multi-trunked and not doing well. The arborist suggested removing two of the trunks last year. I am following thru with that suggestion this spring. Good luck finding a solution.

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  20. Tina, We have small pines, sweet gums and other stuff. We are thinking that anything less then 12 inches in diameter may come out. Not sure we want to tackle this job as there are so many to cut. We were thinking of maybe taking out 10 per weekend until we have the job completed. But we oh, so like our privacy from the street. We would plant dogwoods but nothing being planted until we are out of drought conditions for a year. I do not want to drag a hose in the woods to water them all. Plus the deer would be an issue as they seem to love the young dogwoods. Not sure if we will cut or not. Time will tell…

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  21. Oh dear, we just put in two 3-trunked birch. Now I'm worried. I guess if removing some parts is better for the tree ... Such a hard decision.

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  22. This is quite the specimen, Tina! We also have one but the trunk are more widely spaced. Makes a good climbing tree for the kids. As for what to do...I think I'd take a "wait and see" approach.

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  23. The multi-trunk trees are real nice eye candy but I think in time it does weaken the tree. We had to have a large multi-trunked taken down as it was dead and would have fallen in the road a few years ago and now we have another out by the road that is about dead.

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  24. I have a multi-trunked tree, not by choice, in my garden. I once IDed it out and now I've forgotten what it is... Bananas!

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  25. a quick mini-note: did you just add me to your sidebar under the 'look what i have posted' section? i haven't noticed that before...so, it's an honor for me to be there:) just wanted to tell you that:))

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  26. Wow Tina, lots of responses. Well I talked to the man...pruning guru, and he said that the multiple trucks will grow and fuse together and not to worry about trying to take out any. He did further mention that a nice basal cut (read ground level) and replacing it with another species would not be a bad idea as the silver maples are brittle trees and you will end up with lots of broken branches that could be a hazard.
    Janet

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  27. Not a problem I've had to contemplate on in my yard but reading a post like this makes us aware of such possibilities. Good luck with the sorting out Tina.

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  28. Your post reminded me of a multi trunked vine maple we had. It was a beautiful tree that was here when we moved in. It literally tipped over one day. Luckily it went away from the house and it was only about 25 feet tall. I wonder if that was part of why it fell over...

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  29. Tina, I didn't realize maples could grow multiple trunks like this. Of course, there are so many other things about taking care of trees that I don't know either. I would think you would need to check with an arborist or tree service to find out the best solution. Good luck--I know you don't want to lose a beautiful maple.

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  30. Jan, Yes those arborists are a bit pricey. I hope your tree hangs on. It is my pleasure to add you to my sidebar. I'd truly like every single blog on there! So thanks for the nice comment.

    Frances, I do love my silver maple and I seem to remember yours has a magic mirror on it too. Those roots can be boogers though. I too try to limb up my tree and lighten the load, I hope it helps!

    Gail, No one was there when I went there last night and the nursery looked pretty forlorn. Oh well. Glad you got some good buys.

    Linda, I too planted a tiny river birch and within one year one of the three trunks had peeling! Yours will grow fast! That is one problem with them. But getting them small is good to be able to prune them. I am very glad your silver maple is in an out of the way spot. Mine will do some damage if it comes down (think gardens and a tiny greenhouse). Time will tell.

    Jodi, I think you are right. Too big for me to handle easily. My poor little orange chainsaw is overworked as it is:) I bet your birches are paper and very white! Love them!

    Msrobin, I have no idea why anyone would plant a Bradford pear-what a pain they are. Do keep up on the suckers for sure. I like your avatar.

    Sweetbay, Yes those silver maples are not a tree I would plant, but it is here. Hate to take it out but I will watch it carefully. Do let me know when you have signature plant up. Looking forward to it. I will also check back with your blog. I am enjoying your blog very much.

    Kathleen, Great you are taking the arborist's suggestion. Good for you and the trees for sure. I would love to see aspens. I don't think I have but Paul James has done some spots on them. It sounds lovely where you are. My daughter wants so bad to be stationed in Colorado. She likes to snowboard.

    Skeeter, You and the Saint will be busy! My advice would be to leave it alone. Let it naturalize. But if you want to put in other trees, Cornus kousa is a good type of dogwood. Maybe even a few more cedars and hollies out there?

    Gardeness, Just stay up on the pruning and shape the tree logically. The birches should be okay for a while if they are not congested. That is the thing with these guys-to much girth-like me:)

    JGH, Yup, that is the best approach for now. I will keep pruning the want to be tree trunks and limbing it up and cross my fingers! And this is a good tree climbing tree-fun for the kids.

    Mom, Your maples by the road were always so lovely. They are slowly failing now. So sad. I don't remember a multi trunked one but it is good it is down. Glad you have those spruces out there. They'll be good replacements.

    Monica, You are funny. Write it down or put the info on the blog-there it is. Was it a silver maple by chance?

    Janet, That is a relief! I will let it go and see how it does. Someday I will take it out but for now I think it must stay. It was so lovely last year-the first year. Thanks for asking the pruning guru and coming back to tell me! You are a very big help!:)

    Kanak, I find so many things in the garden fascinating and just write about them. Sometimes mundane, sometimes quacky, but always they will make you think (I hope) and someone may learn something from these posts-like me! Everyone has always been such a big help with these little gardening things and I so enjoy it all.

    Catherine, Did the roots come out with it all? I bet the extra weight of the trunks may have contributed to its demise. And it was lucky it fell away from the house indeed. So many just north of me were not so lucky. Folks are still without power so trees are a tricky subject here right now. Did you burn the wood in a fireplace or firepit? Gotta make lemonade I guess.

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  31. Rose, Hi there! Is it warming up yet? Slowly but surely it is down here. I went and got some more stepping stones this morning froze to pieces-even with the work! Yup, maples, especially silver maples do this. If I let this tree go it would have 20 trunks easily. They start as small limbs or suckers but grow and grow. I am going to take a wait and see approach. Hopefully someday I don't post on here that it fell!

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  32. I live in NC but my gardens are in MI. I go home in the summer to be with family, friends and garden. I have only lived in NC for about a year now but i havent spent a summer in nc yet. Love my michigan!

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  33. Thank you for your comment on my Lemonade post.

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  34. It's great to see a multi-trunked tree and you need to cut the ones that threaten to fall down as it's not safe for you and the tree itself! But I've seen certain trunks fuse with the main one - again that's not always the case though.

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  35. Tina, I like the part where you say "Leave it alone" I must show that to the Saint as he is the one pushing to take them out. I think he is just feeling a mancho need to play with his chainsaw! lol

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  36. Flwrgirl, That explains it!

    Darla, You're welcomed. A heartwarming post.

    Janet, :)

    Chandramouli, I do hope the trunks fuse and stay together. It is tough to hack on it.

    Skeeter, Tell him to come on up here and help me take down a few of my trees that NEED to come out:)

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  37. I've never seen a multi-trunked maple before Tina. The only one I have is the Crepe Myrtle, but they are supposed to be that way. I have to keep the suckers in check on it as well.

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  38. Hi Tina, I don't know the answer. It's a real dilemma for me - things grow and I don't like the way they look. It's not sculpture, it's nature, we guide but don't control.
    Cheers
    Catmint

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  39. Racquel, Yup, silver maples are bad with this. The crepes it is normal and works out okay if you prune them properly. They have the biggest most beautiful crepes I have ever seen in your area. I simply adore them.

    Catmint, I love your phrase "we guide but don't control". So true! It's best to try to work with nature and this is important though sometimes I sure wish I could control out of whack things.

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  40. Don't have any answers. I have a crepe myrtle like that. Looks odd. Not very attractive, to say the least. But what can you do besides chop it off? Can't bring myself to do that.
    Brenda

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