A large limb has ripped off my Bradford pear tree, leaving a huge gash in the trunk. What should I do? -Carmen
Once a tree splits and damages the main trunk, it can be very difficult to heal. And unfortunately, because of their growth habits, Bradford pears are notorious for splitting in two.
Bradford pears grow extremely fast, and they tend to put out lots of nearly vertical branches that come off the tree at narrow angles. These types of branches are much less stable than branches with wide angles; and when they fall, they split and take a huge piece of trunk with them. Even though a Bradford pear should live for 30 or more years, the tendency to split reduces their span to more like 15 years.
If your tree has already split, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Many people decide to cut the whole tree down at this point. If the wound isn’t too severe, or if more than half of the tree is OK, you can wait to see if the tree will recover.
Skip the tree wound treatment, and instead use a sharp saw to try to get a clean cut and to remove any dead wood, so that the tree can callus over on its own. Don’t top the tree; instead thin out branches to reduce the strain.
Prune Branches to Prevent Splitting
A good pruning can help prolong the life of a Bradford pear tree. While the main pruning is best done when the tree is young, it’s never too late to try to save your tree. Bradford pears should be pruned to have a strong, central leader trunk; and well-spaced, widely angled branches of 45 degrees or more.
When pruning Bradford pear trees:
- Remove sucker limbs.
- Thin out rubbing or closely-spaced branches.
- Remove branches growing vertically against the trunk.
Because branch weight contributes to splitting, avoid topping or heading back these trees, since topping results in a flush of growth at the cut site that will make the branch that much heavier. Instead, thin out unwanted branches to open up the shape.
Your first pruning might be a doozy, but the tree will live longer if it’s balanced and not too top-heavy.