Appropriate Lateral (or Lateral Pruning)

Refers to cutting tree branches back to the lateral or “parent” limb.


Branch Collar

The “shoulder” junction structure between the branch and the trunk..

Central Leader

A dominant stem located more or less in the center of the canopy.

Co-dominant Leader

When a tree has more than one main trunk that is similar in diameter.

Decurrent Tree

Overall growing behavior of having a broad and spreading canopy. Like an Oak.


A tree that loses its leaves every year. Usually broad-leafed.


Has foliage throughout the year. Most conifers are evergreen.

Excurrent Tree

Overall growing behavior of having a single, undivided trunk with lateral branches. Like a Redwood.

Included Bark

Bark Inclusion occurs when two branches or stems of a tree grow too close together in a V formation.

Live Crown Ratio

The ratio of the top portion of the tree baring live foliage to the cleared lower portion that includes the trunk, without live foliage.

Lowest Permanent Branch

The lowest large branch or scaffold limb that will remain on the tree for a long time.

Proper Cut

A proper pruning cut should be made just outside the branch collar and should not remove or damage the branch collar. This allows for proper closure of the wound.

Root Collar (or Root Flare)

The area at the base of a trunk where it “flares” out and transitions from trunk and bark tissues into root system tissues.

Scaffold Branch

Scaffold branches are primary limbs that form a tree’s canopy.

A good rule of thumb for the vertical spacing of permanent branches is to maintain a distance equal to 3 percent of the trees eventual height. Thus, a tree that will be 50 feet tall should have permanent scaffold branches spaced about 18 inches apart along the trunk. Avoid allowing two scaffold branches to arise one above the other on the same side of the tree.

Subordinate Pruning

Selectively shortening selected leaders and branches to encourage the growth of others.

Sucker Growth (or Water Sprouts)

Vigorous vertical growth coming from the roots, or lower main stem of a plant or from headed/topped cuts.

Temporary Branch

A branch that will remain on the tree for only a short period; not a permanent limb.

Weight Reduction Cut

Reduce end weight by removal of limbs less than 2 to 3 inches at end of scaffolds.

See Pruning Definitions and Specs