Damage & Prevention

Tree Support Systems

Tree support systems provide supplemental support to leaders, individual branches, and/or entire trees. Cables, braces and guys provide supplemental support by limiting their movement.

When a tree has a structural defect or condition that poses a high risk of failure, which may result in injury or property damage, a supplemental support system can often reduce the risk. However, not all potential hazards can be mitigated by a support system. The tree needs to be thoroughly examined by an arborist or professional tree care company before installing any support system.

Below are the most common structural defects with a high risk for failure:

  • Codominant stem: Often referred to as a “V-crotch” or weak junction. Because of the lack of direct structural connections between codominant stems, they are structurally weaker compared to a single stem.
  • Heavy or “overextended” branches: These are the branches that are unusually long for the tree species, are horizontal or downward growing, or have the majority of their foliage concentrated at the end of the branch. Breakage of these branches may occur at the junction with the stem, or they may split due to tension forces on the top and compression forces on the bottom of the branch.
  • Weakly anchored tree: This condition exists when a tree is transplanted with a substandard root ball; has become uprooted; suffers from defective roots due to damage or decay; or has another condition that results in poor root anchorage.

Pruning or removal should always be considered, as pruning may remove the structural defects and removal may be safest option. If a support system is still needed, there are a few options:

  • Cabling: Cables restrict the distance that branches can move in relation to each other. Cable systems minimally consist of a set of anchors, a cable, and the appropriate means of termination or connecting cables to the anchor.
  • Bracing: Brace rods are used to reduce the risk of two or more leaders spreading farther apart or moving sideways in relation to each other. They are also used to fasten together a junction or branch that is split apart. See graphic below.
  • Guying: Guying is the installation of a cable between a tree and an external anchor to provide supplemental support and reduce tree movement. Established trees are rarely guyed, apart from a few cases such as trees that have been uprighted after being blown over or trees with serious root defects that cannot be removed due to historic importance or other reasons
  • Propping: Props are rigid structures built on the ground that support a branch or trunk. Props are used under branches or leaning trees to keep the branch off the ground or a structure or to provide clearance. Typically, props are used under branches that are nearly horizontal or growing downward.

Examples of Support Systems (Support Systems)

An arborist or professional tree care company will inspect your tree to determine whether it needs a support system, as well as determine which installation method is the best option. Support systems need to be inspected on occasion, to ensure that the system remains in good operating condition.

3 thoughts on “Tree Support Systems

  • Christopher Buhler

    I have hey 700 year old Pondarosa pine in front of my house with my 6 foot diameter trunk. It lost a major branch about six years ago and the whole north side of the tree up to that branch has died. The top and rest of the tree is intact hand otherwise looks healthy. The bark has pulled away on about 3/5 around the base of the tree. The good side is facing south towards the house. It does not appear to be leaning. I’m wondering if the cable system could be anchored to it. Either a very long one or two that goes to the top of it which is over 150 feet tall or a series of cables anchored to the dead part. This trees of great historical significance of course. I am located in north eastern Oregon near Joseph

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  • Thanks for breaking down the different components of a cabling and bracing project. Its a very involved process but it definitely works to restore a trees structural foundation. This method works great for trees like Christopher was mentioning and with time it should restore and heal itself. Thanks.


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