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I recently moved into a new house. A tree in the backyard does not seem to have a "main" trunk. It has a lot of branches coming from the ground. What should I do with it? Remove it? Trim it, if so how? Leave it?

Pictures below:

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There is no immediate need to do anything. This tree looks quite healthy. I admit more homeowners like trees with a central leader but this is just a preference and will not affect growth or it's ability to cast shade. Some ideas:

  • roll back the grass for a foot around the base of the tree and add up to 1/2 inch of mulch or compost. Top up annually. Grass competes with tree roots for nutrients and a barrier next to the trunk prevents some of this and accidental whipper snipper damage
  • follow good pruning practices:
    • trim branches that cross or rub against each other
    • watch for poor crotch formation: branches that grow from the trunk at narrow angles. These can be points of weakness and might split or shear years from now when they are larger.
  • maples with this structure can get quite dense and end up with a puff of leaves around the exterior and nothing on the inside. Prune on the exterior to let light and air circulate. Maples bleed when pruned in the spring. I find pruning in the hottest parts of summer or the coldest parts of winter works great. Summer pruning will not induce new growth and winter pruning will.
  • no need to treat cut ends with anything. Let nature take care of it and skip the wound paint which can cause more damage.
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My you have a multi-stemmed tree that is to die for! What do you have for tools? What do you know about pruning? It would be nice to help a bit more with the pruning! Do you understand the difference and reasons behind heading versus thinning? Wouldn't take much to ruin this beautiful tree so please keep asking questions. I would get rid of all plant growth from the base of the tree out to the drip line. Please go check out pruning techniques from books and before you go chopping, let us help. Beautiful tree!! NO HEADING, just thinning. Get rid of smaller diameter trunks from the base. Arghhh. Is this a maple? Acer ginnala? Kevinsky's answer is great. You have time to learn a bit more so you don't ruin your gorgeous tree. Closer picture of the bark and leaves and buds?

  • I know nothing about pruning :( I'll get you a picture. – rys Jul 21 '16 at 12:51
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    The leaf looks exactly like an Acer saccharinum. – rys Jul 21 '16 at 13:04
  • Close enough, rys. Glabrum is usually multistemmed, not saccharinum but still. Would like close ups of buds and leaves anyhoo. – stormy Jul 21 '16 at 22:14
  • I do know pruning pretty well to be hired for thousands of bucks to prune special plants for 'special' peoples. Always, ALWAYS, I adore learning more and where I could be wrong. – stormy Jul 21 '16 at 22:15

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