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TOPIC: what to do with a multi-trunked tree

what to do with a multi-trunked tree  3 weeks 3 days ago #301

  • Murphy
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Question from a NY landowner: My silver maple tree has several trunks. What would happen if I cut them back to only one trunk? Should I leave it as is? Had them on our farm lawn previously and they were messy. Always seemed to have bark, etc. on the lawn to clean up. Also, if I keep trimming around it as I have will it still grow more trunks?

Our Answer: I have seen a few of these before. A beautiful tree, but it does make a mess, and is often multi-trunked. Here's some answers, and some additional points to consider as you make a decision about your silver maple.

Yes, if you cut it back to a single trunk, new shoots are likely. Silver maples are really good at that. But you can just cut them off once you spot them. Birches can do that too. Not uncommon.

Location matters. If the tree is away from your house and driveway or any other infrastructure, then I would just leave it. Silver maples can grow into very large trees that provide a lot of shade. But if the tree is right next to your house or driveway, then I would consider taking down the trunks that are leaning in that direction. This is because silver maples are notoriously weak and susceptible to wind damage and rot.

Size matters. How thick are the trunks? This is important because the larger the trunk, the more susceptible to rot after being cut. If they are 4"-6" thick max, then risk is minimized. If larger than 6" thick, then that is a sizable wound, especially if you are cutting back several trunks.

I have family in New York City with the exact situation. Because the tree was very close to their house, and because the tree was on track to tear apart their walkway and wall, I advised them to cut down the whole tree. In their case, even trimming it back to a single-stem would not have saved their walkway and wall. Silver maples just get too large for tight spaces. Many cities (like Syracuse) are cutting down their silver maples for these reasons.

So, should you cut it? It depends. But hopefully these points will help you make a decision.

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