Neil Buckley Tree Services
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Tree Care Terminology

Crown Thin

Crown thinning is the removal of a small portion of secondary and small live branches to produce a uniform density of foliage around an evenly spaced branch structure. It is usually confined to broad-leaves species. Crown thinning includes crown cleaning and does not alter the overall size or shape of the tree. Common reasons for crown thinning are to allow more light to pass through the tree, reduce wind resistance or to lessen the weight of heavy branches.


Crown Lift (or Crown Raise)

Crown lifting is the removal of the lowest branches and preparing of lower branches for future removal. Good practice dictates crown lifting should not normally include the removal of large branches growing directly from the trunk as this causes large wounds which may jeopardise the long term future of the tree. Common reasons for crown lifting are to bring more light and give access for traffic. In the UK common practice dictates clearance for vehicles is 5.2 metres (17 feet), and for pedestrians 2.5 m (8 feet).


Crown Reduction

Crown reduction is used to reduce the height and/or spread of the crown of a tree by the removal of the ends of branches whilst maintaining the tree's natural shape as far as practicable.


Crown Clean

The removal or dead, dying, diseased, broken, crowded, weakly attached and low-vigour branches as well as climbing plants (eg ivy).

Other useful terms associated with tree work


Bracing is a term used to describe the strengthening or supporting of a tree by means of cables, rods, webbing or similar.

Branch Bark Ridge and collar

More noticeable on some species than others the branch bark ridges are shown as hatched lines on Diagram 2. Also more noticeable on some species than others is the branch collar, a swelling at the base of the branch. Neither the branch bark ridge nor collar should be cut.


Scar tissue laid down by the tree in order to cover and protect a wound, eg a pruning wound.

Cavity work

Removal of material from cavities and drainage of cavities achieved by drilling through living wood. Modern research indicates this should not normally be carried out.

Co-dominant Stems

See forked growth.

Conservation Area

The designation given to an area by a Local Planning Authority (LPA) which requires, amongst other things, six weeks advance notice to be given to the LPA prior to certain tree works. In other words, most works to most trees within a Conservation Area must not be undertaken without notifying the LPA in writing six weeks in advance. Failure to do so may be a criminal offence.


The cutting down of a tree within 300 mm (12 in) of the ground at regular intervals (typically on a one to five year rotation). Traditionally applied to certain species such as Hazel and Sweet Chestnut to provide stakes etc.


The section of the tree formed by its branches and usually starting above its stem.

Crown Lifting or Raising, Crown Reduction or Crown Thinning

Dead, Dying Dangerous or a Nuisance

The catch-all phrase describing the conditions of trees to which protection afforded by Tree Preservation Orders or Conservation Areas does not apply. Legal definitions are the subject of much debate, often through the courts and professional advice is strongly recommended.


When a tree exhibits signs of a lack of vigour and progressing towards its death.


Tips of branches exhibit no signs of life. As decline progresses so more branches are affected and to a greater extent.


The inactive condition of a tree, usually during the coldest months of the year when there is little or no growth and leaves of deciduous trees have been shed.

Drop Crotching

Shortening branches by pruning off the end back to a lateral branch which is at least 1/3 diameter of the removed branch.


The application of a substance usually to the tree's rooting area (and occasionally to the tree) to promote tree growth or reverse or reduce decline.

Flush Cut

The removal of a branch by cutting very close to the branch to be retained, cutting through the branch bark ridge and/or collar, thereby reducing the ability of the tree to callus.

Forked Growth (Co-dominant stems)

The development of two or more leading shoots of roughly equal size and vigour competing with each other for dominance.

Formative Pruning

Pruning during the early years of a tree's growth to establish the desired form and/or correct defects or weaknesses.

Fungi/Fruiting Bodies

Any spore-bearing structure on a stalk (like a toadstool) or attached directly to the tree (a 'bracket' fungus). Note: some are harmful (cause disease - pathogenic), some are harmless (living on material already dead - saprophytic) and some are beneficial (symbiotic)

Lifting or Raising

See Crown Lifting.

Lopping and Topping

Generally regarded as outdated terminology but still part of Planning legislation. Lopping refers to the removal of large side branches (the making of vertical cuts) and topping refers to the removal of the head or crown of the tree (the making of horizontal cuts). Often used to describe crude, heavy-handed or inappropriate pruning.

Painting or Sealing

Covering pruning cuts or other wounds with a bitumen-type substance. Research has demonstrated that this is not beneficial and may in fact be harmful.


Disease inducing - usually referring to fungal fruiting bodies.


A frequently misunderstood term, and used in two different contexts. Traditionally and still commonly used this term describes the removal of all branches from the trunk. Mature trees that have not been pollarded before are generally not suitable candidates for pollarding due to the large wounds that such treatment produces which may jeopardise the long term future of the tree. A less frequently used definition can mean the regular (annual or biannual) pruning back of small branches to the same point resulting in the formation of a 'pollard head'. Pollarded trees usually require regular treatment of re-growth.


See Crown Reduction.

Root Pruning

The pruning back of root (similar to the pruning back of branches). This has the ability to affect tree stability so it is advisable to seek professional advice prior to attempting root pruning.


See Painting.


See Crown Thinning.


See Lopping and Topping.

Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

Statutory protection applied to a tree or trees meaning that most works to most trees covered by a TPO must not be undertaken without the prior written consent of the LA. Failure to do so may be a criminal offence.

All terms used above are in collaboration with the Arboricultural Association

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