Why Hatracking Weakens Trees

 

Palm Beach County clearly prohibits “hatracking,” and yet I see lopped-off trees all over the island, as well as in landscapes throughout the county.

Hatracking, as spelled out in Code 7.3.H.4, is defined as removing more than a fourth of a tree’s canopy. Because pruning is permitted only for the health of the tree or safety considerations, hatracking directly contravenes the law.

“Let’s call it what it really is — tree mutilation,” said arborist Mike Zimmerman.

hat racked tree

Trees do not draw food up through their root system; they depend entirely on their leaves to manufacture food through photosynthesis. So when ignorant maintenance crews cut off more than a fourth of a tree, they’re in effect starving it of the nutrition needed for health.

I know whacking off lots of limbs makes their job easier because it lets them trim only once or twice a year, but it’s not good for your trees. So-called “topped” trees are weakened and therefore more susceptible to fungi, diseases and pests.

As if starving trees isn’t bad enough, hatracking also promotes a dense ball of growth from the cut sites, which in turn, makes the tree more prone to wind damage during storms and hurricanes.

“I see it a lot in Palm Beach because homeowners can do anything they want,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve been pushing for years to get an ordinance like (the one in) Broward (County), which holds owners and maintenance crews responsible.”

Meanwhile, the law we do have also applies to palms. In fact, it may be easier to just instruct your crews to cut only brown fronds. At the very most, they should leave any fronds on that are perpendicular to trunk or higher.

Talk with the maintenance company’s owner and supervisor to make sure the entire crew agrees to abide by the rules you insist on.

Finally, in addition to all the above reasons to stop topping trees, it’s just plain ugly. In fact, I think any maintenance worker who hatracks trees should have his chain saw removed!

Whew, I feel much better after this rant. Now, if only I didn’t have to look at the hideously hatracked trees at the end of my street.

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