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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Use of Tree Spikes to Climb Palms or Not?

Q. I have Mexican fan palm trees that were skinned a few years ago. I just had them trimmed.  The trimmer climbed the trees with spikes. The spikes left holes in the trees. Will this harm them?

A. Most likely not but using tree spikes or “gaffs” is not a good idea. The holes created by climbing gaffs create places for diseases to enter the tree. One disease, a lethal disease for Canary island and Mexican fan palms called Fusarium Wilt, can enter the tree through these wounds. This can be particularly true if the gaffs were used first to climb a tree that was infected.

            This disease and others can also be transmitted from tree to tree on pruning equipment if this equipment is not cleaned and sanitized properly between trees. Several methods can be used to sanitize pruning equipment including alcohol, Pine-Sol, TSP or trisodium phosphate, and even 30 seconds of direct heat from a butane lighter.

            There isn’t a good reason to NOT clean and sanitize pruning equipment. It’s laziness. Would you go into surgery and let the doctor use a dirty scalpel? If climbing gaffs must be used, at least sharpen, clean and sanitize them before climbing.
            I can understand why you might be upset having holes punched into “skinned” palms. Avoid putting holes in the trunk whether it’s pounding nails, pruning with a chainsaw or climbing with gaffs. Climbing gear that create holes are no longer recommended for pruning palms. Taking a gentler approach is preferred. Ladders, “cherry pickers” or scissor lifts are recommended.

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