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Cabling and Brace Rods

As trees reach the later stages of maturity, it is common for them to need extra support to help withstand our Florida storm season. Long, lateral branches often form into heavy, codominant leaders if left unattended over time. These codominant leaders eventually reach a level of increased mass and leverage that commonly leads to structural failure. Particularly during high winds. Because of this, it is often recommended to add additional support systems to these leaders in the form of brace rods or cables to reduce the likelihood of this failure occurring.

Why cables and/or rods are necessary for some trees

Trees that grow in urban environments do not typically have as much competition for sun and resources that trees in a natural forest environment would compete over. This allows urban trees to grow much larger and extend much wider than they would in a forest. This typically results in the beautiful, large canopies that we commonly think of when envisioning urban trees like our Florida Live Oaks. However, the resulting increase in mass and longer extension of lateral leaders is one of the largest reasons for structural failure in older urban trees.

Additionally, it is also common for two or more trees to originate in close proximity to each other. This typically occurs when multiple sprouting trees are allowed to grow in clusters, or when a new sprout grows underneath an existing, more mature tree. As these trees continue to mature, they will eventually begin to compete for space with one another both above ground, and beneath the soil, resulting in cramped root spaces and under-developed structural root placement. In this scenario, brace rods can be used to bind the trunks of these trees together, increasing the overall stability of each tree.

How the process works

If a certified arborist determines the need for additional structural support, he or she will identify the precise limbs and/or leaders that need addressing. Based on the specific conditions of your tree(s), it may be advised to install cables in smaller upper canopy leads, brace rods through larger diameter codominant leaders, or a combination of both. These recommendations will commonly come in conjunction with recommended limb removal and lateral weight reduction pruning to increase success rates.

Static & Dynamic Cables

Cables increase overall stability by reducing the limb or leader’s range of motion but still allowing a more natural sway in the winds. Cabling most commonly comes in two varieties: static and dynamic.

Example of static cable system
Example of static cable system

Static cabling is an extra high strength, galvanized, braded steel cable that is attached to the problematic limb and anchored to a vertical and more stable upper canopy leader. Holes are drilled through the attachment locations and galvanized eyebolts are inserted to provide the attachment points for the cable. Over time, the tree will grow around these attachment points and hide the hardware from view.

Example of dynamic cable system
Example of dynamic cable system

Dynamic cabling is a high strength, braided, nylon and synthetic rope that acts similarly to its steel counterpart. However, dynamic cabling gives a wider range of motion over static and does not require drilling of holes into the tree itself. Instead, the dynamic system wraps around the anchor points and attaches back on itself via synthetic straps and splicing.

Which method of cabling (static vs dynamic) to use will be determined based on your tree’s specific needs.

Brace Rods

Most commonly, rods are used in scenarios where we do not want there to be movement or separation between codominant leaders or neighboring tree trunks sharing root space.

Two neighboring Oaks secured with a brace rod
Two neighboring Oaks secured with a brace rod

Bracing rods are threaded, 304 stainless steel rods that are inserted between two or more large diameter leaders through drilled holes. These rods are then secured with nuts and washers on both ends to ensure a tight and permanent attachment. These higher strength rods are intended to add stability without allowing for movement.

Reducing the need for supplemental support systems

By and large, the best way to reduce the need for supplemental support systems is to have your trees pruned regularly by professional arborists and by removing close-proximity tree sprouts before they have a chance to develop to maturity. Young and adolescent trees that are structurally pruned regularly develop into stronger, singular-lead adult trees with much fewer structural concerns down the road. For a more in-depth look at structural pruning, see our educational post on this topic at the following link



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