Improper Pruning

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Improper Pruning

In Broward County and in the City of Sunrise, several methods of pruning are not only prohibited by our ordinances but also are unhealthy to the tree and dangerous to those around it.  Improper pruning produces ugly and unsafe trees.  We prefer properly pruned trees because they are more attractive and healthy.  

A tree that has been topped, lion- tailed, or over- pruned may look as though it is growing back “so quickly and nicely”.  Do not be fooled!  Those new branches are growing in fast because to make up for the lost food source and avoid starving to death.  The tree does not have time to form strong branches; it is rushing to grow leaves because it needs food!

Examples of improper methods of pruning:

ToppingTOPPING or hat- racking a tree is when branches are cut back to stubs from the top and the sides.  When trees are topped, they respond with a flush of new growth that is weakly attached to the open pruning wounds, and is susceptible to breakage and severe decay.   This tree to left will cause a potential hazard to property, vehicles, people, and pets in the future.


Lion Tailing 1LION TAILING is a practice where inner branches and leaves are removed, leaving a lot of weight on the ends of branches.  It is easy to imagine all the trouble this causes.   Branches are prone to breaking because of all the weight on their ends.  The inner bark is exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause severe sunburn.  The tree becomes very weak overall.  


Overlifting 1

OVERLIFTING While minor lifting can be ok, over- lifting removes too many leaves and branches.  Lifting is done to provide clearance under a tree, but taking more than 25% of a tree’s crown is too much.




OverthinningOVERTHINNING Thinning can also be an acceptable method as long as no more than 25% of a tree’s crown is removed.  The photograph to the right shows a tree that has been over thinned.

REMOVAL OF MORE THAN 25% OF A TREE”S CROWN BY ANY MEANS A tree produces its own food through its leaves.  Without the food that the leaves provide, the tree cannot survive.  Removing more than 25% of a tree’s crown takes too much of a tree’s food source away.

This tree has been topped several times.  Notice the weak new branches that result

 . Severe Topping


                                                                    Improper pruning results in severe decay

       Damage Tree 2                                     Damage Tree 1


The most common reason given for hat racking a tree is to control the size of the tree. Many homeowners feel that trees have become too large for their property and that a given tree posses a hazard especially during hurricane season.  In fact, topping a tree will make it more hazardous and likely to break in storms.  In Sunrise during Hurricane Wilma, much of the existing tree canopy was lost or severely damaged causing the need for its removal.  Many of what remains bears the scars of broken branches and leaning trunks.  The City undertook a major replanting initiative within the medians along Flamingo Road, NW 136th Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard. In addition, many residents made the best of the situation by replanting lost trees with species better suited for their property. Further emphasizing planting the right tree in the right place. Through the continued effort of both the City and its residents, the tree canopy within Sunrise is recovering and will be stronger than before.  In order to truly provide an urban forest, we need healthy trees in every yard.

 Help prevent improper pruning practices such as hat racking and never hire unlicensed companies going door-to-door to trim or remove your trees.  By following these simple guidelines, you will help maintain our valuable green space within the City of Sunrise for years to come. For more information on tree selection and tree care within the City of Sunrise, contact William Byrnes, Urban Forester in the Community Development Department, Engineering Division at 954-746-3270 or by email at

Please remember, prior to the commencement of work, Sunrise requires that a permit be issued every time a person or company trims or removes a tree. This allows for verification that all licensing requirements have been fulfilled.

In Sunrise as in all of Broward County, only Certified Arborists or County licensed tree trimmers may trim trees at any property, including single-family residents, multi-family residents or any commercial properties.