To the layman, tree surgery invokes images of chainsaws, falling branches, harnesses dangling in the canopy. But beyond that, public knowledge is minimal. However, if you’ve got a tree on your property (or will one day own a property with a tree), then chances are, you will need a reliable tree surgeon at some point.

Just like regular surgeons, tree surgeons have several procedures they can perform. Here’s a list of the main types of tree surgery.

Crown Reduction

The crown is the foliage bearing section of the tree, comprising only branches. When performing a crown reduction, the size of the crown is reduced by pruning branches throughout the crown. Deadwood is also removed to prevent disease. Crown reductions should remove as little material as possible, with a defined measurement across the entire crown, to ensure a smooth finish.  

Crown Thinning

If a crown is too full, inner branches can be removed to allow more light to pass through, improving the air circulation. Crown thinning is typically performed on broad-leaved species. As a rule, no more than thirty percent of a tree should be removed during thinning. Thinning is often performed regularly, as many species produce large amounts of growth annually.

Crown Lifting

A crown lift removes branches nearest the ground. Branches connected directly from the trunk are often not removed, as this can lead to decay and instability. If a tree overhangs onto a road, crown lifting can be performed to allow the passage of vehicles. On older trees, crown lifting is not advisable. Instead, removal should be restricted to secondary branches or shortening primary branches. Less than fifteen percent of the crown should be removed during a lift.  


Pollarding is when all the branches and the majority of limbs of a tree are removed to trigger multi-stem branching. The process is continued cyclically. Most often performed on young trees.

Formative Pruning

During a tree’s early years, pruning can be used to create the desired form, as well as to remove any defects or structural weaknesses.

Retrenchment Pruning

Pruning is done to encourage lower shoot development; thereby, mirroring the natural process of ageing.

Root Pruning

If roots grow unwieldy or threaten the structural integrity of nearby buildings, roots can be pruned back. However, root pruning can affect the structural stability of a tree, so professional advice should be sought. 

Limb Removal

If a particular limb is causing trouble, it can be removed, without reducing, lifting, or thinning the entirety of the crown.

Dead wooding

Due to external stress or ageing, branches will naturally die. The removal of these branches, in an otherwise healthy tree, is to avoid the danger to people walking below. Removal is restricted to the dead section of wood.


The complete removal of a tree by cutting it down is known as felling. A tree can be felled for a variety of reasons, but must always be conducted by trained professionals.


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