Can this tree be saved?

Asked July 22, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT

We have a pretty little tree in our backyard that experienced moderate squirrel damage two winters ago. Now only half the tree has new growth. The other half, where the bark was eaten away, is dead. See the photos. Is it possible to trim the dead limbs and keep the remaining tree intact?

Denver County Colorado

3 Responses

The tree appears to have a lot of dead wood that should be removed. The Colorado State University (CSU) Extension resource Pruning Maturing Shade Trees provides general pruning guidelines. It also includes a link to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) website, which you can use to find a certified arborist to help you. Keep in mind that the task of pruning large trees is beyond the training and experience of most home gardeners. Hiring a bonded professional is the best approach for most large-tree pruning jobs. Also, such a professional can advise you as to whether the tree can be trimmed or should be removed.

As you consider what to do, you may find the following excerpt from Pruning Maturing Shade Trees helpful:

Removing dead branches – To minimize risk if the branch were to fail, it is advisable to remove any dead branch larger than a two-inch diameter and higher than 30 feet. Dead branches may also become a source of insect and disease pressure in the tree.

Remove the dead branches using the three-step pruning technique. For details refer to CMG GardenNotes #612, Pruning Cuts. Do not cut into the branch collar which would open a high potential for decay to spread into the trunk. If live wood has begun to grow out along the dead limb, cut just beyond the live wood being cautious not to nick the live tissue. Never “flush cut” the dead branch.

Thank you for the thorough response, Merrill! It was really helpful.

I think you're right: it's best to have a professional take care of the tree to ensure that I keep it as healthy as possible. I'll use the resources you provided to find someone local to help.

You are welcome. Have a great day!