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Codominant Leaders in Trees

Example of a Codominant Leader in a TreeWhat are codominant leaders? What risk do they cause? What can we do to prevent or control them?

A codominant leader is when a tree has more than one main trunk that is similar in diameter.

The problem with codominant leaders is that the union between the multiple leads has “bark inclusion” which causes the structure of the tree to be very weak. Trees that are structurally weak have a high risk of failing and causing damage to anything around them. A tree with one main leader or trunk and smaller branches stemming from it is a preferred and generally stronger structure.

There are a few things we can do to prevent or help correct codominant leaders, the first being proper tree selection. When you hire a certified arborist, the tree selected will be structurally sound with one dominant trunk. Certain tree species are well known for developing several competing branches and can be severely damaged in storms such as Bradford Pears and Red Maples.

If you have a tree that is already in your yard with this problem, we can address it early in the tree’s life with “subordination pruning”. When we prune this way, we select the lead that we would like to reduce and prune only from that stem. By doing this consistently over a few years, we are allowing our selected dominant lead to develop more growth while training the less stable lead to remain smaller.

Cables can be attached to a tree to avoid structural failure of a tree with a codominant leader.	If a tree is already mature, it may be too late to begin subordination pruning, but there is still another option to create more strength within the structure of the tree. Cables can be attached to a tree to avoid structural failure. These cables will reduce movement in the leads and will decrease the risk of damage during storms.

When considering the structure of your tree, it is very important to hire a certified arborist to determine the best outcome for your tree. Avoiding potential hazard for you and your property is our top priority and a structurally strong tree will reduce that risk. Give us a call to look at and assess the structure of your trees.