The use of tree support cables involves the installation of specific hardware and cables (synthetic or steel) for the intended purpose of reducing the risk of branch or tree failure. Tree support cables are used to limit (or minimize) the movement of swaying of branches, which will suppress the pressure at points of poor branch attachment. There are different types of cabling systems, which are designed for certain types of trees or situations.
Many trees develop poor branching structure through natural growth patterns. Some of these trees grow into multi-stemmed trees with several points of weak attachments. Trees often develop splitting limbs, cracking limbs, decay or limbs with weak unions. Anyone of these conditions can lead to trees that are more susceptible to damage from the stress of wind, ice, or snow.
Two Types of Cabling Systems: Static and Dynamic
Dynamic cabling systems add support while allowing the tree to move naturally. This allows the tree to continue to strengthen weak and poorly attached limbs. A benefit of dynamic cabling is that it requires no mechanical drilling, which can cause damage.
Static cable systems should be used for trees that have substantial cracks or splits or are too heavy to be supported by dynamic cables. Static systems use steel cables (instead of synthetic fibers) which give constant, consistent support. Unlike dynamic cables, static cables require drilling into the tree’s tissue.
Any tree should be inspected prior to cabling to evaluate the potential for limb (or tree) failure. Many trees may be a better option for removal, instead of cabling. Any necessary tree pruning should be done prior to cabling. Also, limbs must be large enough to support the cables between two poorly attached branches or stems.
Any cabling system, whether static or dynamic, should be inspected on an annual basis. Cabling systems may need to be replaced or adjusted every 5 years or so.
A Word of Caution
Tree support systems are not the answer for every condition. Support systems are NOT intended to eliminate risk and are NOT considered permanent solutions.
Tree with two poorly attached main trunks in need of tree support cables.