Help, My Tree is Unbalanced – What Should I Do?

My tree is unbalanced, will it fall over? Can you do some tree pruning so it is more balanced?

This is a question I often get asked.

Sure, a tree may look unbalanced, but that is just our perception. We may percieve unbalance because there are more branches on one side than another.
It is a legitimate question though, particularly if part of the tree was lost or damaged in a storm or by mechanical (human) injury.

Truth be told, a tree does not balance itself by growing branches on one side then another. Branch growth is determined by sunlight. Look in nature. Trees growing on the edge of a forest, on the side of a cliff, next to a building, all look one sided, yet they are balanced.

How do they do this?

Part of this is due to the formation of tension and compression wood in the trunk and main branches. To simplify, wood cells growing under pressure grow differently from those under tension. The result is the side of the trunk supporting a heavier load grows compression wood, which acts like a support to hold that side of the tree up. The side of the trunk supporting negative weight (under tension) grows wood with fibers that resist that tension.

Certainly there are other factors to consider as to whether a tree is at risk of failing or falling over, such as, the degree of lean that a tree may have, soil type and structure, intergrity of the root zone and trunk defects such as cavities and hollows.

However, if your tree has been pruned a little too heavily on one side by the power company or by your neighbour, and it has a reasonably vertical trunk, it will most likely be ok from a balance point of view. Probably one of the worst things you could do to a tree that has lost a few limbs is to prune it more just for the sake of looking balanced.

Please call a suitably qualified and experienced arborist to have you tree assessed if you have concerns about your tree. If you are within 20kms of my area and you are after a Central Coast Tree Service, I will be happy to offer a free assessment to my readers.