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Epicormic branches
<Garry Clubley>
Background: Within the "school of arboricultural thought" that I adhere to, it is the practice to not remove (or at least not "excessively" remove) epicormic growth on trees where this growth is in response to the various typical stress factors (e.g. construction damage, poor site conditions etc.). My approach would be to accept that this is a natural response by the tree; "a survival tactic of the tree" as Shigo puts it, and that this growth is necessary to maximise photosynthetic area of the tree. The approach would be to leave this growth on the tree until the crown to root balance is restored (possibly in response to amelioration techniques) and the lower epicormic growth loses vigour as the upper crown re-establishes and shades it out. This is the typical response of Eucalypts if they recover. At a later stage, it may be appropriate to remove these branches to avoid the usual problems of weak attachment etc.

I provided this explanation to a client, in response to the opposite advise being given by another arborist (i.e. the other advice given was that the epicormic shoots were "starving" the tree of water and nutrients where they are needed by the leaves at the outer edges of the crown - in this case a Eucalypt) - (Yes I know the process is more complex than this).

I accept that my explanation above is a generalisation, but in this case I am talking about trees that do not characteristically produce a lot of suckers or epicormic growth along the branches, and in situations where the tree species and the environmental conditions are such that crown thinning or cleaning out is not required for disease control. Basically I am talking about the small diameter epicormics on stressed trees.

Question: Having explained the reasons for my approach, the client has asked the question: "is there any literature on this subject?"

Two questions arise to this learned forum:
1. Is there any agreement (or disagreement) with the broad approach that I would take and described above?
2. If I am right, could you please direct me to some appropriate literature that supports this approach and that I can direct my client to? I have gone back to Shigo and Harris, both explain what epicormic growth is and (in Harris) why you might clean out this type of growth, but neither explain why it might be retained at least over the short to medium term.

Thanks for any help.

Garry Clubley
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