enter image description hereThis Spruce tree is very odd. I have a few questions about it. First of all, how did the branch segment pictured below grow there? It grows right out of the smaller trunk into the larger one, without branching. This segment increases in diameter each year, like a normal branch. My second question is, how did this tree get its branching habit? It is very unusual for a norway spruce to grow that way. The lower branches are extremely strongly developed, and curve upward until they are growing parallel to the trunk. The lowest branches grow to within ten feet of the top. The tree is very vigorous and spreading. Why does it grow this way?

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2 Answers 2


I'd guess that when it was young, the leader was cut just above where all the odd branches come out, at two different heights, and maybe more. After that, the top candles all competed to be the new leader. The odd branches that turn upward were the losers. The normal branches above that are off of the "winner" that became the new leader.

I suspect the odd intersection happened the opposite of the way you described. The smaller branch was there first, but as the new trunk grew in girth, it grew into the smaller branch. This happened because of the topping described above, and subsequent neglect. The fancy term for this is inosculation. This is used deliberately in tree shaping.

  • There is a strong leader going straight up the middle..It is about two feet in diameter where the big branches are eight inches. The whole trunk is straight as a rod, except near the top, where it splits into two. The branch segment is odd, because it grows straight into the middle of both trunks, and stops, like the rung of a ladder. I do not think the top was removed.
    – J. Musser
    Feb 6, 2012 at 2:07
  • @jmusser I'm just talking about clipping the leader when it was a tiny thing - you wouldn't see any deviation now that it's grown, because the replacement would have been right next to it. Look at how much the trunk shrinks above the first cluster of branches - that's what you see when there's a fight to be leader. Look around for younger cases - I think you'll see how it would go. It might have been weevil, but my best guess is that someone wanted it to stay small, just be decorative. Given how it's up against the house, I can see why!
    – Ed Staub
    Feb 6, 2012 at 2:32
  • It is a big tree. If it has neglect problems, why is it so huge and vigorous? Is neglect healthy? There are two trees in front of the house, but this one has been growing like a weed, while the other one is normal. I wonder why the person who trimmed this tree didn't trim the other one. The other one is the one with its roots above the ground.
    – J. Musser
    Feb 7, 2012 at 2:32
  • @jmusser What I meant by neglect was that after they stopped topping it over and over, a new leader wasn't selected and the competitors pruned back - instead, they were all allowed to grow, probably with no pruning at all. One reason might be that the house changed hands at that time - but it's just a wild guess. FWIW, see "I wish I had photos of trees that had been 'topped' for a decade or so, then let go. They turn out to look freakish.". Or an arborist.
    – Ed Staub
    Feb 7, 2012 at 3:06

The branch segment you see will be a structural problem for the tree. It should be trimmed out. If allowed to grow it will cause a second large trunk and for the tree to get a "forked" shape. This will increase its vulnerability to winter storm and wind storm damage. My southern magnolias sometimes develop these branches and I cut them off before they get big and become a threat to the tree.

  • I mean the small segment growing from the smaller to to the larger trunk. The smaller trunk is not a problem, as it curves outward at the top 5' below the top of the tree.
    – J. Musser
    Feb 6, 2012 at 2:10
  • As the tree grows, it will become one. Feb 6, 2012 at 2:20
  • Should I cut the top off?
    – J. Musser
    Feb 7, 2012 at 2:25
  • Get rid of this smaller trunk. It gets to be a big problem as the tree grows. Dont' top the tree. That can lead to deformity and to the try dying. One of my gums got topped by an ice storm and it has progressed poorly since. Feb 7, 2012 at 2:36

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