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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Acacia Damaged by Low Temperatures and How to Remove Limbs

Q. Any advice on Acacia trees would be great.  These trees took a hit when the temps dropped to the 20's in December.  I see new growth, but mostly on the suckers.  Should I leave the suckers there or remove them? What is the best thing to do to help these trees recover?

A. This is more complicated. First you will remove any wood you know is dead. By now (June), any part of the tree which is still alive should have thrown out some growth. Remove any limbs that are dead (no growth coming from them) by cutting at point of attachment to another limb or the trunk.  You should not leave any stubs when you are done.
            If the limb is large and heavy, you should remove it by either removing sections of the limb at a time that are manageable or use a technique that we sometimes call the 1-2-3 method. This is demonstrated pretty good on removing a limb on wikihow. Here is our sequence of cuts at the Orchard.

Cut number 1 is made upward about a foot from where the final cut will be made.
The second cut is made downward a few inches away and to the outside of the first upward cut.

The weight of the large limb causes the limb to begin splitting when it falls. The split occurs from the outside second cut to the upward first cut. The prevents the limb from splitting down the side of the branch and into the trunk.

This is a look at the limb that has split from the branch and now lies on the ground.

The third and final cut in the 1-2-3 limb removal sequence is made at the proper distance from the trunk. This leaves the trunk/limb "shoulder" in place and finds the balance between the smallest cut possible and not leaving a stub. The cut is left to heal on its own and no coating or sealer is used.

This is a different tree but gives you an idea of what the "shoulder" looks like and where it might be located on a much smaller limb.

 Next, remove any broken branches. They will not repair themselves. Remove any wild or “sucker” growth. This type of growth usually has weak attachment to the trunk and not support itself in years to come. Remove any growth coming from the trunk that is not high enough in the future.
            This growth will not get any higher and as it gets bigger will “sag” or bend downward perhaps into places where you can bang your head. Remove these by making a “flesh cut” in other words remove it all and don’t leave a stub.
            Finally thin out the remaining branches so that any dead wood is removed (again by making “thinning cut” which is the same as in the third sentence, removing it at a point of attachment without leaving a stub.) Try to have the remaining branches going in different directions to help balance the crown visually.
            I hope this helps. By the way, I would do any major limb removal next early spring after the worst temperatures have passed. Minor cuts (with a hand shears) can be done any time.


  1. Thanks for the damage-removal techniques and timing.

    But which species of Acacia is the person inquiring about, that got severe damage in a winter where it is nowhere near a record low?

  2. This email came in to me in June of 2013 so it was the winter of 2012-13. I delayed publishing it since no one is interested in reading about freezing temperature damage when it is 115F. This person did not tell me which one and did not tell me where they live just that it got to the 20's. I am in agreement with you that it would be unusual for most acacias sold in the SW to be damaged at these temperatures but....
    Thanks for pointing it out David.