Why Lion Tailing Trees Is a Bad Practice

Pro Tree of Knoxville proudly ranks as the number one independent tree trimming service in Knoxville and beyond. A growing list of satisfied customers leaves us stellar reviews for their manicured landscapes, helping us become a household name in our service areas. Every year, our tree experts answer many questions from property owners about improper pruning practices.

Since it has become common knowledge that topping harms tree health, a new practice has emerged that proves equally destructive: lion-tailing trees. In this explainer, our arborists will outline why lion-tailing trees can ultimately kill them and how to prune your trees correctly.

What Is Lion-Tailing?

Lion-tailing refers to a destructive pruning method that involves removing or excessively thinning the interior branches of a tree, leaving it looking like the tail of a lion.

Some people request landscapers to lion-tail their trees because they believe they get more value from their pruning expenses. However, when licensed arborists follow industry standards, the effect of their pruning jobs looks almost unnoticeable in the before and after pictures. Lion-tailed trees offer little to no aesthetic value, often looking malnourished and out of place in an otherwise healthy lawn.

The Harmful Effects of Lion-Tailing Trees

Creates Structural Challenges

Lion-tailing eliminates too much leaf area, ruining the dampening abilities, aerodynamics, and structural balance of trees. It makes them less resistant to adverse weather and predisposes them to overloading, even during a storm-free winter. Because lion-tailed trees have over-thinned interiors, they become top-heavy, carrying the weight of their canopies at the ends of their branches, which could lead to leaf and branch loss.

Some property owners with deciduous trees request landscapers to lion-tail their trees as high as a telescopic bucket can reach. Lion-tailing trees in this fashion will kill them after a few seasons.

Responsible for Malnutrition

Lion-tailing downgrades the photosynthetic capabilities of your trees, often causing them to resort to accessing carbohydrate reserves set aside for dormant periods and droughts. It creates an artificial crisis environment that stresses trees and harms their immune systems, making bug, fungal, and bacterial infestations more likely.

Creates Poor Branch Structures

Lion-tailing causes excessive leaf and branch losses, which trees compensate for by responding with a surge of growth. This trauma response imposes excessive nutrient and water demands on an already-stressed tree.

Trees respond to direct sunlight exposure, excessive wounding, and the absence of photosynthetic material by sprouting weak and inefficient interior branches, which poorly attach and can quickly snap in high winds. Leaves on the exterior canopy often become too hot to photosynthesize efficiently, leaving the bulk of the work to these fragile branches.

The lack of food and structural imbalance often causes sunscald on the branch tops and trunk tissue, creating avenues for insect infestations, decay, and tree diseases.

Contact Tree Experts Today

According to the Kansas State University Forest Service, tree trimming must not remove more than 20% of the canopy to prevent stress that weakens the immune system. Learn more about lion-tailing trees and other bad tree pruning practices by calling Pro Tree of Knoxville at (865)-294-0062 for a free consultation.

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