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Are Codominant Trees Dangerous?

Let’s begin by first defining what a codominant tree is. Any tree that has two or more branches, also known as stems or leaders, emerging from the same main trunk is considered a codominant tree. While it’s not unusual to see a codominant tree with three main branches, the majority are two, and for this article we are going to assume all codominant trees share two stems. Oak, maple and conifers are the most common trees with codominant branches.

Can codominant branches be avoided? 

While codominant branches as they mature become similar in size, when a tree is still young, one of the branches is usually smaller than the other, and can easily be removed. 

Once the tree matures it’s a bit more difficult to correct a codominant situation. A professional arborist will need to be consulted to determine which of the branches can safely be removed. This is because even though the two branches look similar, there is one that is always the primary branch. Removing the primary or main branch can result in debilitating branch failure

Are all codominant trees a hazard? 

As the main stem splits into two separate branches, it is important to understand there is one major factor that will often determine if a codominant tree will fail. Does the tree have a V-shaped or a U-shaped fork or union at the base of where the branches join the trunk? If it’s V-shaped the tree is at much higher risk of failure. 

V-shaped fork. 

Often bark will grow between the two codominant branches above where the main joining point is located resulting in a v-shaped fork. The trapped bark acts as a wedge between the two branches, creating less physical contact between the stems and the main contact point. With more bark comes more pressure, pushing the branches further apart until the point below where the branches are truly connected begins to crack. 

U-shaped fork. 

At the point where the two codominant stems join, if the union is U-shaped, the branches are more structurally sound as wood tissue is able to grow within the union. You may notice a darker ring where the stem joins the main trunk. This is known as a branch bark ridge and is very important in keeping a codominant tree safe. This ridge protects the tree trunk from decay and helps the tree heal after pruning.

Out on a Limb Tree Service would like to take this time to wish all their clients, past, present and future a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year. And we look forward to being there for all your tree needs in 2022. 

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