regrowth after cutting pine 1/2 down

Asked June 20, 2016, 7:29 PM EDT

A neighbor and I want to cut a very large pine tree down past the point where it splits into 2, which would leave approx 20-30 feet. If left standing, it already leans, there is a good chance it will take out our home. We were told by one tree man that we needed to take completely down or it will regrow. The cost of doing so is too expensive for us. I never heard about a pine tree regrowing. What is the story on this?

Westchester County New York

3 Responses

Hello - Resprouting will likely occur, depending on which pine you have in your yard, and what remains after the cut/whether it has latent buds. There are five native pines in NY (see New York Pine Trees - TreesForMe). Certified Arborists are well trained and, with experience, usually can give you the best idea of what will happen.

You can also see Forest Connect that allows you to ask questions of extension forestry experts in NY. I suggest you telephone your local extension office [(914) 285-4640] or contact the state forester, Peter Smallidge, NYS Extension Forester, Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

Best wishes for the outcomes of your decision.

I assume you share this tree with your neighbor, perhaps on a boundary line, and it currently is 40-60' tall. Cutting it half way down would (again I assume) leave a 20-30' standing trunk bare of any branches(?). If that is the case, most conifers would succumb to this drastic pruning and die - usually only willows and maples sucker out from such drastic pruning measures, hence the topping that continues to this day. Tree removal costs vary throughout the year, with winter pricing sometimes being substantially less than "in season." Also your town many have ordinances in place either protecting live trees or requiring some sort of permit for (essentially) taking down the tree in question. Aside from the lean and the sense of risk in the tree leaning towards a house, are there any structural or insect/disease problems with the tree that it needs to come down? Just some additional feedback to consider in deciding your next course of action with this tree.

I'll make the same assumptions that Nick does in regards to the current and prospective size of the tree. Also, other than pitch pine (Pinus rigida), pines in the Northeast won't sprout after cutting. Pitch pine has bundles of three needles; most others have bundles with either 2 or 5 needles. If all the live branches are removed, the stem will die. You will be left with a large dead stub, but that likely has much lower risk of damage to your house. Pines have moderate decay resistance, and a dead stub could (no promises) remain standing for many years.

It isn't really possible for us to assess the need to remove the tree, though Nick offers some good considerations. To help in your decision, you might seek counsel from a certified arborist, such as through the International Society of Arboriculture. Local tree ordinances may also be a factor, although I suspect there is a provision for hazard trees. If you opt to delay removal of a tree that has potential risk, you should confirm coverage via your home owners insurance policy. An ISA certified arborist would also be able to give advice on how to remove the tree.

Good luck,