I've a lot of substantial trees, mostly sycamores (related to maples I think, they might have a different name in the US?)

I can see over the past the last owners pruned branches on the main trunk but each time, a spray of new branches has sprouted around the stump. In some cases they clearly cut these back and then each of those sprouted - the end result is a messy 'beard' of new branches coming from the trunk.

Is there a way to stop this happening? Should they be pruned at the right time, or the raw stumps treated to prevent regrowth, perhaps? Or is this just how some trees grow and I have to resign myself to managing it?

Please note my growth is coming directly from the stumps of the cut branches. Which is exactly what the answer to How can I stop a sycamore tree from sprouting new growth? doesn't cover, that focuses on sprouts from the trunk/roots rather than from the 'scar' of my pruning. I am not pollarding my tree to encourage new growth, I am removing unwanted branches where I want no growth.

  • This looks exactly the other question linked to above. If not, please explain the difference so it can be reopened. Thanks!
    – Niall C.
    May 10, 2017 at 15:27
  • @NiallC. it's not... my growth is coming directly from the stumps of the cut branches. Which is exactly what the other question's answer doesn't cover, it focuses on sprouts from the trunk/roots
    – Mr. Boy
    May 10, 2017 at 15:31
  • Brutally pruned (pollarded) or trees that have compromised roots trying to support the mass of the tree will put out these 'air shoots' in an effort to make more photosynthetic mass for the health of that tree. I'd look at the root situation first...send a picture. Is this tree compromised by sidewalks or other trees close to this tree? Keep cutting this stuff off for sure, lets figure out why this tree is struggling to survive. Great question!
    – stormy
    May 10, 2017 at 19:36

2 Answers 2


I think you're describing something similar to pollarding. You can take several steps to work this growth pattern out. The tree will continue trying to push out new growth if there is light available. This method eventually fills in the opening that's letting light hit the main structure, as well as diverting the tree's energy.

  1. Cut the 'head' back to behind the area where it sprouts, if possible. If a head of sprouts is growing directly from the trunk, slice it off as close as possible (rather than cutting individual suckers).

  2. When the tree re-sprouts, watch the new sprouts, and find one from each wound that you want to keep. If several areas of sprouting are in very close quarters, choose only one or two for that area. It should be healthy, showing a lot of vitality, but lateral growth with a wide angle from the main trunk is preferable. Once you've chosen your branch, cut away all the other sprouts.

  3. Once the sprout grows out several feet, and begins branching, prune lightly, leaving strong lateral growth. Keep removing other sprouts at the base. Within a few years, the new branches will be diverting enough energy that the wild sprouting should slow or stop. There will be less sprouts once a solid canopy has been created, catching the direct sunlight.


The way to stop this happening is to hire an arborist with a chipper and have the stump chipped out to a depth of at least one foot (30 cm). As you have noticed although the tree appears to be gone the root system is a going concern. Other trees may be supporting it with sugars transferred through the root system.

As long as you try cutting off the watersprouts you will get regrowth. Get it chipped out and then if it still comes back try burning out the stump as this answer indicates.

  • I don't think you read my question. This is about sprouts from the site of pruned branches not removing a tree
    – Mr. Boy
    May 11, 2017 at 8:51
  • @Mr.Boy I did read your question. You ask " is this just how some trees grow " and that is correct. After heavy pruning you will get lots of sprouts wherever they are cut on some species.
    – kevinskio
    May 11, 2017 at 17:15
  • 1
    @Mr.Boy - you did use the word "stump" in your question, which implies that the tree was cut down. From the context of the rest of your question, it's apparent that this wasn't true, but it was enough to throw off kevinsky. Had you included a photo with your question so that we could see the tree in question, this wouldn't have happened.
    – Derek
    Jul 31, 2017 at 13:25

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