If you are a new homeowner, or simply home shopping, you will want to determine if the trees around the property have been Pollard pruned, and factor the cost of yearly Arborist visits into your budget, or the asking price on a house. A pollard tree requires large-scale yearly pruning to maintain the overall health of the tree, or the tree will suffer from structural issues, and pose a threat to nearby cars, and property, with regularly falling limbs and debris.
How To Tell If A Tree Has Been Pollard Pruned:
Throughout the fall and winter, a pollard pruned tree will be obvious, with the majority of it’s growth cut away, and no foliage visable. Through the growing season, these trees may be more readily identified by abnormally thick growth in the crown of the tree, and a disproportionately thick truck of the tree when compared to the height of the tree. In the height of summer, a pollard tree’s foliage often resembles a mushroom shape, with an almost perfectly shaped dome of leaves rising over the trunk of the tree. One of the trademarks of the rapid and thick growth following a pollard pruning is that the foliage in the crown of the tree is so thick that you cannot see daylight through the branches. Pollarding cuts off the mature and natural branching of the tree, and capitalizes on the rapid growth of what are called water sprouts. Out of each branch cut will grow wads of small water sprouts, that create a very full illusion of foliage, but a very weak structure. When looking into a fully leafed-out tree to check for pollarding, let your eye follow the main branches up the tree from underneath, and notice if the branches abruptly dead-end into clumps of long finger-like shoots that grow straight up toward the sky. If you find this pattern repeated through the tree, then you have a pollarded tree.
To the left are two pictures. The top picture is of a pollarded tree, and it’s mushroom cap growth, and bottom picture is of a tree pruned for structural soundness, but allowed to grow naturally. As illustrated by these two pictures, average foliage growth on a tree that has not been pollarded allows sunlight through, and has been allowed to develop mature branches, that open the tree up, with yearly foliage growth more consistently toward the perimeter of the crown. Pollarding allows a tree to keep water sprouts, and trains a tree to repeatedly develop them, a practice discouraged in common pruning methods, where branches are carefully selected to bear the load of future years of growth.
If you are house shopping, pollarded trees in the yard, or along a street, that you may become responsible for, are one thing to add to your list of items to ask the prior homeowner about. Yearly Arborist visits to care for your trees can add up, and will be an item you may want to use in negotiating your settlement. Unfortunatley, due to the large-scale nature of this pruning method, it is not a practical project for the weekend DIY-er, and will require the hauling away of a years worth of tree growth. For new homeowners with existing pollarded trees, contact a knowledgeable arborist in your area to work on a plan to maintain a healthy pollarded tree. A yearly, or bi-yearly full pruning plan will be needed for the life of the tree.