Terms Your Tree Trimming Professional Might Use

Posted on: 24 April 2023

If you have a tree that could use a good trim, the easiest approach is generally to call a professional and hire them to trim your tree. This will generally start with a conversation in which they tell you what they plan to do to the tree and why that approach is ideal. This conversation will be more productive if you have an understanding of the common terminology that tree trimmers use. Here are some common terms to understand.


If the trimmer tells you that they are going to "dead-wood" a tree, that just means they are going to remove dead and dying branches. Doing so helps reduce the number of insects that are attracted to the tree. It may also help the tree stay healthier and more vibrant. Nutrients that were being sent to the dying branches can instead be sent to healthy, living ones.

Lateral Branches

If a trimmer tells you they need to remove lateral branches, those are basically the branches that grow from the main tree limbs. You can also think of them as secondary branches.

Scaffold Branches

This is another term for the limbs of the tree — the big, large branches that grow directly from the trunk.


If a trimmer tops a tree, they will be cutting off the very top of the tree in order to shorten it. This is a fairly common practice in landscaping, but it is hard on the tree, so your trimmer may avoid it if your tree is weak, young, or of a vulnerable species.


Thinning the tree is what it sounds like. This means they will remove branches that make the branch growth too dense in certain parts of the tree. The primary purpose of thinning a tree is to allow more light and air to flow through its branches. This keeps them dry and helps prevent disease.


The leader is basically the trunk. This should never be cut. Sometimes, you will hear a trimmer discussing "preserving the leader," usually in reference to trimming a younger tree. Preserving the leader helps ensure this young tree grows up healthy and strong.

Now that you have a solid understanding of these terms, you can have a more productive conversation with your tree trimmer. If you have any questions about your trees, don't hesitate to ask a professional service like AC Horticultural Management Inc. Most are happy to explain their work and profession to the people who hire them.


Keeping Your Trees Healthy

About a year ago, I realized that our front trees were starting to look a little funny. Some of the leaves were wilted, but we weren't anywhere near autumn. The bark on the trunk also seemed to be rotting away, which was frustrating and disappointing. Fortunately, a friend of mine told me to call a professional arborist for help. He came out, inspected the trees, and injected some special pesticides into the trunk. Within a few months, they started to look a lot better. Our arborist also trimmed our trees to reduce the weight load on the branches and to improve their shape. Check out this blog for information about tree trimming.