Catulpa tree question

Asked June 12, 2016, 9:22 AM EDT

I have a row of young catulpa trees which were started from seeds. A few years ago, a couple of them started new branches very low on the trunk or possibly below the soil and I have wrapped this new growth around the trunks rather than prune. My husband is convinced that the new growth weakens the main trunk's stability in a storm. My thought is that the wrapped growth is less likely to snap or break off because of the fact that it is wrapped. Could you please lend your expertise and knowledge? Is the tree less likely to withstand being blown about in a storm?

Benton County Minnesota

5 Responses

This will not weaken the tree but it doesn't help it either. We usually recommend pruning a tree to ensure that there is just one leader because of the chance of splitting in high winds and snow and ice loads, but in this case it's two trees that are intertwined. I would prune the smaller trunk to ensure the leaves of the crowns are at the same height.

Mary C.,
Thank you for your quick response. I want to make sure I'm understanding your answer. You stated that I'm not hurting the tree, but should prune what I'm wrapping so there is only one crown height within the tree. What if I prune the top crowns of the trees slowly over the years and allow the lower crown to catch up to the upper crown? As you can see, I'm hesitant to prune what I've been trying to accomplish over the years. (An interesting trunk that will be sturdy). Thank you in advance for your answer, and I look forward to reading your reply.

I'm apologize for not being clearer! What you are proposing is what I meant to convey - sort of.
Do not prune out the tops of the trees - just the lower limbs. If you prune out the tops you risk creating two or more leader branches that would contribute to the instability of the tree(s). The shorter tree will catch up if you prune out some of it's lower branches.

Another expert has suggested that this new growth is a vine, and he says:

"This woodbine (Parthenocissus vitacea) will indeed harm the catalpa by strangling it. It can grow to 30 feet and is just as harmful as encircling roots."

Mary C.,
I have not heard of this vine before. When I googled the Latin name, the photos looked very much like Creeping Virgina (which is growing all over our 20 acre woodland). But I know it's not the same plant as that. The catulpa trees do not have this vine on them, the leaves match what a catulpa tree leaf should look like. I appreciate the additional concern, but I am most certain that I have not been wrapping a vine around my tree. Thank you again for your help today- Kathy R.