By ERNIE REZENTS
For The Maui News—
Condominiums are some of the worst offenders, and it is usually done in-house without the benefit of a trained Arborist. Businesses and shopping centers with parking lots are probably a close second. Check out some of the stores along Alamaha Avenue in the Kahului Industrial Park for some good examples. Homeowners see it done so often that they accept and request that their trees be pruned the same way.
State highway and County park crews have been given instruction on correct pruning procedures within the last two years. New employees will need similar training. Now we need to get their private contractors to abide by acceptable standards, especially when it comes to libraries and schools and jobs too big for in-house pruning. Government should update bidding specifications by consulting with the Maui County Arborist Committee (243-7325) and realize that the lowest bid may cost them more in the long run.
What is Topping, Stubbing, Tipping, or Heading-back?
By definition it is to remove a branch a) at a bud, b) at a twig or another branch that is less than 1/3rd the diameter of the one being removed, c) far away from it’s origin rather than just outside of the swollen collar at its base. Often times topped trees are cut at a uniform height and will be recognized by its large stubs.
Why is it wrong to top a tree?
- New growth is weakly attached and may become a hazard, especially in strong winds when branches are long and heavy with leaves, flowers, and seed pods.
- It will cost you more money. It takes little skill to top a tree and guarantees the pruner a return visit. The tree will produce many vigorous sprouts and quickly reach the height it was originally. What you wanted to correct will occur over and over again and require frequent pruning.
- It may cause the tree to die because of low stored energy when coupled with environmental stresses such as drought, pollution, and insect damage. It will cost you money to remove the dead tree.
- Improper pruning removes more than one fourth of the live foliage at one time along with too much of the trees’s stored energy and chemical defenses. A healthy tree will survive temporary drought and lower fertility, and resist insect pests and diseases.
Why are trees Topped?
Some of the reasons given are: the tree has outgrown its space, it is blocking ocean views, it will buckle the concrete curb, it will raise the asphalt in the parking lot, it is breaking up the side walk, or is making too much rubbish. It would have been better to plant a smaller tree if the space is too confining. The “Maui County Planting Plan”, available from the Volunteer Action Program at the Kahului Community Center ($15 donation, call 243-7325- ), is an excellent reference for planting the right tree in the right place.
Corrective Action after Tree Topping.
Water and fertilize the tree and let the bushy growth grow to build-up and store energy. When branches have reached three to five feet long, select three or four of the strongest ones and let them grow into major limbs. These may be eventually reduced in number, but you will be able to make a better choice then. The other branches should be tipped to prevent them from competing with the selected few. Keeping them is only temporary to “feed” the tree. They will eventually be removed.
Parking Lot Shade Trees.
Maui County has an ordinance that requires parking lot owners to plant one shade tree for every five stalls. Some lots exceed this requirement; others plant just what is required. The Planning Department approves tree types with a broad canopy for shading people and cars. After construction is completed some trees may die; those that live may be pruned into balls that provide little to no shade. Dead trees should be replaced if they are required to meet the minimum count. Maui County Public Works Department has a complaint form that people can use to cite violations of any ordinance, including the one on trees in parking lots. An investigation will be conducted, and if found to be true the lot owner will be required to replace the tree (s). Could those pruned in a way that they do not provide shade also be in violation? It goes contrary to the intention of the ordinance.
If a tree has to be topped for whatever reason, maybe it is the wrong tree for that spot. Some mainland pruners have told me their companies will thin out trees, remove dead wood, raise or lower crowns, and if necessary remove trees, but they will not top them.
Maui’s world class hotels spend a lot of money planting and caring for their trees because they know trees provide cooling shade and beauty their guests enjoy. Improper pruning costs more money in the long run. Don’t accept it!