Four Reasons Trees Drop Branches

Most damage caused by trees is due to broken and dropped branches. Falling branches can also be deadly if they hit a person or pet. Knowing which branches are most prone to breakage can help you plan your tree pruning to avoid the problem.

1. Friction Damage

When two branches grow too closely together, they will rub as the tree sways in a breeze. The friction from this rubbing wears through the bark, weakening one if not both of the affected branches. These bark wounds can even allow in insects or disease, which can cause the branch to die. Damaged or dying branches are more likely to break off, so it's important to have the tree trimmed regularly to remove any branches that rub together.

2. Weak Crotches

The crotch refers to the area where the lateral branches connect to the trunk. The crotch angle is measured from the top angle of the branch junction. Generally, trees with a crotch angle between 90 and 45 degrees are the sturdiest, although this can vary depending on tree species and average branch diameter. Angles greater than 90 degrees, which are branches that droop to the ground, are more prone to breakage due to weight distribution. Branches with angles smaller than 45 degrees may also be weaker, especially in heavy snow when they are unable to bend to support the additional snow weight.

3. Water Sprouts

Occasionally a quick-growing branch will sprout from the center of one of the lateral branches that make up the main horizontal lattice of the crown. The sprouts, called water sprouts, grow vertical to the ground and parallel to the trunk. They tend to grow quickly. The lateral branch can't support the weight and growth pattern of the water sprout, so it is more likely to break off in the wind or simply under its own weight. Trimming the water sprout solves the problem. 

4. Crown Imbalance

A crown imbalance is when one side of the tree has more branches, longer branches, or lusher growth than the other side. This is especially common in split or multi-trunk trees, but any tree can suffer the issue. The increased weight on one side of the tree can lead to dropped branches, particularly in high winds. You can solve this problem by having the crown pruned and thinned so that it is more balanced.

Contact a tree trimming and removal company for more help.