Natural Target Pruning
Douglas L. Airhart & Guy Zimmerman III

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Right Tree / Right Place

Selecting Trees

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Summary Diagram 

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Topping Hurts!

Protecting Trees

Tree Root Myths

Pine Bark Beetles

Live Christmas Trees


List of Figures

List of Video Vignettes

Related Links



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    Pruning Trees- Natural Target Pruning: 

The practice of natural target pruning makes use of the branch collar to identify the proper location to remove a branch. But there is a three-cut process that must be used to remove branches in order to preserve the bark tissue and the branch collar.

   The first cut (marked A in figures below) is an undercut about 1/4 through the branch made upward from the bottom of the branch about one or two inches farther out than the collar.  


    The second cut (marked B in figures below) is a downward cut just outside the undercut that actually removes the entire branch, eliminating the weight of the branch before making the final natural target cut.


    The third cut (marked C-D in figures below) is the natural target cut. The remaining portion of stub is removed with a cut made just outside of the branch collar tissue.

From Tree City USA Bulletin No. 8, 1989, Used with permission of The National Arbor Day Foundation. (Figure 7-8) Pruning Hardwoods to Protect Branch Collars.

The Three Cut Process:

Video Vignette (See it live!)

Healed Natural Target Pruning: 

Video Vignette: (See it live!)


(Figure 7-9) Pruning Conifers to Protect Branch Collars.



From Tree City USA Bulletin No. 8, 1989, Used with permission of The National Arbor Day Foundation.

The first two cuts remove the weight of the branch. This will prevent the bark from being ripped off the trunk at and below the branch collar. In our rule of thumb example, this would be similar to a hangnail on your finger.

Shigo, (1989).

(Figure 7-10) Results of Improper Pruning Cuts.

Ouch! When limbs are removed without making an undercut, the bark may be peeled down the trunk as the limb falls downward.


Purpose    Right Tree / Right Place    Selecting Trees    Transplanting Trees    Mulching & Staking    Summary Diagram     Pruning Trees    Topping Hurts!      Protecting Trees     Tree Root Myths     Pine Bark Beetles     Live Christmas Trees     Glossary     List of Figures    List of Video Vignettes    Related Links     Bibliography is maintained by: Douglas Airhart, Ph.D. Certified Arborist & Jeff Plant, Ph.D, Last Updated on: 07/11/03