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Ancient trees and Veteran trees are the most important and often the most beautiful trees in a landscape. Veteran trees are mature trees that have been alive for hundreds of years. Ancient trees are also veteran trees, but are the oldest of their kind, some having been alive for thousands of years.


Veteran trees all have different needs, and as such they each require a unique set of management strategies. There are a number of ways by which a veteran tree can be retained for as long as possible:



Tree Care Cork - Bracing & Propping

What is a veteran tree?


Veteran trees are trees that are 'over-mature', trees that have surpassed maturity and are now 'veteran'. They are often of interest biologically and aesthetically. They are recognised by their impressive, unrestricted crown architecture, main stem girth, total size, and common presence of trunk hollows, cavities, rot-holes or broken branches. All veteran trees are different age ranges, as their veteran status is relative to others in their species. 


Veteran trees are vital self-supporting ecosystems which provide habitats for an abundance of lichens, bryophytes, fungi, specialist invertebrates, birds, and mammals.



​Heritage Tree Care Ltd. can survey and evaluate old tree populations. Individual trees can be tagged, mapped, and classified according to their individual attributes, habit features and species requirements. The trees can be individually risk-assessed according to ISA guidelines and their condition evaluated and recorded via a monitoring programme. It is advised that unfavourable land use activities should inform future management decisions. The type of tree-survey provided can be adjusted to the requirements of the tree and the needs of the landowner. 


What care do they need?

There are a number of ways by which a veteran tree can be retained for as long as possibleSome management practices are:


Crown retrenchment is a natural tree aging-process. Veteran trees die-back from the tip when they have reached their maximum crown-size limit. This triggers epicormic growth at the base of the interior branches. It is common for trees to go through retrenchment during their senior years, however dead branches means a higher risk of failure. If heavy limbs fail they can literally pull apart a whole tree and cause irreversible damage, so failure must be prevented at all cost.


The skilled arborists at Heritage Tree Care Ltd.  can mimic natural retrenchment, to promote a lower crown, which then enables us to remove the dead upper branches which are likely to fail. Pruning can be stressful to veteran trees- the wounds sustained do not heal as efficiently or effectively as those sustained by younger trees. As such, retrenchment pruning is a cautious and careful practice that 'bio-mimics' the natural ageing cycle of the tree. 


Propping is simply the placement of an appropriate support under a vulnerable limb. Props can be made from anything, wood, brick, metal, even the use of another tree. The method of propping used, can be decided upon by discussing the trees requirements with the client. The tree may require careful pruning before or after propping to take weight out of the crown. 


Bracing is the exercise of strapping vulnerable limbs to stronger limbs, to provide support. This reduces the risk of failure of the weak branches, ensuring continued health and safety. Cobra-bracing offers a flexible, dynamic support system that does not damage trees. However, sometimes even this cannot be done on veteran trees, if none of the limbs are very strong. 



Ultimately veteran trees require as much space as possible above and below ground. Haloing is the process whereby less important trees are removed or pruned around the veteran tree, to allow it more light, nutrients and water.


Drastic changes to a veteran tree's current environment can cause them stress, whether that be from soil compaction, increased pesticide use in their proximity or to construction being carried out too close to them. Sometimes a veteran tree is simply not safe for pedestrians to be near. In these instances a barrier (natural or man-made)can be created or erected around the tree's root protection area (RPA advised radius = 15x the DBH of the main stem). 



Veteranisation is a technique involving 'fracture pruning'  whereby younger trees are “damaged” in a way which may speed up their ageing. This is done to create valuable habitats, suitable for different animals, such as bats and owls. Heritage Tree Care Ltd. use a variety of methods including cutting habitat holes, winching and coronet cutting. The idea is to mimic natural damage, but not to kill the tree. The onset of rot will also encourage insects and invertebrates.

Alpha Arbor Ltd.  Tree Services tree Surgeons  Arborists  Gerrards Cross  Buckinghamshire

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