Looking for advice on crossed branches

kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)April 17, 2012

I have a 5-year old plum tree, and I never noticed before that it has two branches at the base that are just about touching. I've heard, in general, that one should remove one of the branches in this situation. However, I hate to destroy the symmetry of the tree as these are fairly major branches, if I don't have to. These two branches are unlikely to produce a rubbing injury as they are so close to the trunk, but it is clear that they are just about to grow together. Here is a shot of the tree, and then a closeup, showing what I'm dealing with. I would appreciate any opinions on whether I need to prune, and, if I don't, what can happen. Thanks.

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alan haigh

Who knows what will happen although the structure of your tree invites disaster. The touching you are concerned about is one thing but below your arrow where the large branch connects to the trunk is your greater problem, I think. The branch is so large that the trunk can't really wrap it with connective tissue which makes the branch vulnerable to breaking off at that point.

That branch should be cut off entirely as should all branches more than half the diameter of the trunk at point of attachment. Way too much big wood in your tree.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:14AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

as to how I would do it.. cut off both forks.. about 2 feet UP from the Y ... please feel free to tell me i am out of my mind.. lol ...

removing all hanging weight ...

and i hope you have a very good pruning saw ...

i would then take the left fork.. the one touching.. and cut from the bottom up .. very carefully to the binding part ... trying to get it off the other.. without cutting the other ...

then i would go to the trunk .. and remove the right part.. again.. working from the bottom up at the branch collar.. using the 2 foot section to push lightly into the tree to open the gap for free saw movement ...

its so easy .. but putting it into words.. is baffling.. lol.. as well as reading it i am sure ...

and while you are there with the saw.. time to study every branch in there.. and remove all future potential problems ... be proactive ...


    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:07AM
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alan haigh

I believe strongly in a radical approach to pruning badly trained trees when they are young. The wounds heal easily and over the long term you end up with a much easier to manage and much more attractive tree. You also end up with more fruit in equivalent space if you remove over sized branches now.

The fact that I'm pruning fruit trees for over half my working time (maybe 1,000 hours a year) pretty much frees me from the fear of cutting wood.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:31AM
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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

Look at it this way: If you don't cut off a branch or two now, it will break itself off later when it is loaded with fruit. Better for you to decide how you want it cut than for nature to make the decision for you.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 10:25AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

ken_adrian and harvestman-
I think I understand what you are both saying, and I've done enough pruning to know that you remove in a certain order doing several cuts to prevent tearing of bark, splitting, etc. What I want to clarify is the end result for the two touching branches: Is it correct that, when I'm done, I will have removed the entire "Y" in the bottom-front of the second picture all the way back to the main trunk?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 1:59PM
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alan haigh

If you would rather keep the tree almost as it is, the rubbing branches may well graft together over time. I have seen plenty of perfectly healthy branches that have done this a very long time ago. I've also seen healthy branches that injure each other but develop callous and never merge but are fine. As I said- you never know.

You can also retain oversized branches by reducing excess vigor with persistent summer pruning of said branches.

I don't understand your last question, however.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 3:03PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Ok...let me try again. The second picture has a big branch with a "Y" shape. The arrow is on the left branch. I interpreted your directions to say: remove the left branch and the right branch, and then take the stub off by cutting it back to the main trunk.

(Or, per your last post, take the chance of letting them go on as is...)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 3:15PM
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alan haigh

Yes, I'd take off the whole thing as it defines a poor branch. The "included" bark (Shigo's terminology) or inverted bark on the inside of the union is a sign of the poorest structure and weakest union.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:10PM
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