Does Your Tree Have Codominant Stems? What You Should Know About Them

Does your tree split into two large stems, each appearing roughly equal in size and importance? If so, it may have what's known as codominant stems. What are codominant stems? Why are they dangerous and what can you do about them? Here's what you need to know. 

What Are Codominant Stems? 

In general, trees should have one main stem, known as the leader, from which other smaller branches lead off. However, sometimes, two branches develop roughly at the same time and start to compete with one another. They may turn in too close together and conflict. Or they may form a V-like or U-like joint. These are codominant stems because neither one can become the leader or solely dominant stem. 

Why Worry About Codominant Stems?

Looking at a tree with a V-shape joint, you may not think that it looks particularly risky or unattractive. However, codominant stems present a number of hazards. The joint itself includes what's known as included bark where the two stems meet. This connection looks solid but is actually very fragile and at risk of falling. While both U- and V-joints can split in the wind, storms, or just due to age, V-joints are the most at risk. 

Codominant stems also cause the tree to grow in a misshapen manner. Rather than a single canopy following the normal growth pattern, the two stems form their own canopies which intermingle and conflict. The tree ends up with too much growth in some areas and not enough in others. This can heighten the risk of falling, broken limbs, and leaning. 

What Can You Do About Codominant Stems?

The best time to repair codominant stems is when they first form. By pruning one stem while both are still in their infancy, you can return all the growth to one single leader and train the tree to develop normal growth.

Have codominant stems already developed a foothold? There are still a few options. One is to slowly prune back one stem over a long period so that the tree doesn't experience a sudden shift of weight and direction. If you can't remove either stem without risking the tree falling, you may also use cabling to support it, reduce weight loads, or train it. 

Where Should You Start?

Do you have codominant stems on existing mature trees? Have you noticed the potential for them on younger trees? Start taking action now to protect the tree and everyone around it by meeting with a qualified residential tree care service in your area today.

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