How to Prune a Bur Oak Tree


Bur oak, known botanically as Quercus macrocarpa and also commonly as mossycup oak, is a large hardwood tree that reaches 70 to 90 feet in height and spread, according to the University of Florida. Like most oak trees it is relatively long-lived and pulls nutrients from deep in the soil via a very large central taproot. Recommended pruning is limited to removal of disease and damage or to prevent interference with surrounding structures.

Step 1

Prune your bur oak tree in the winter or early spring while it is dormant to avoid unnecessary stress on the tree. Refrain from pruning bur oak or any other oak tree in April, May or June as this timing will make the trees susceptible to beetle feeding and oak wilt disease, which can be deadly to the tree tissues.

Step 2

Raise the crown of the tree when needed by removing the lowest branches in the canopy to create visual or walk-by head clearance. Cut limbs back to the parent branch to just outside the slightly swollen branch collar or back to the trunk itself. Spread cuts around the canopy to maintain a roughly symmetrical lower canopy.

Step 3

Remove damaged, diseased, weak, drooping, abrading or otherwise compromised limbs in the interior canopy, if needed. Thin the interior branches lightly to increase sunlight penetration into the canopy or improve air flow through the canopy if needed. Distribute the cuts evenly in the canopy if possible to preserve a natural-looking canopy.

Things You'll Need

  • Pole saw
  • Long-handled branch loppers


  • University of FLorida - U.S. Forestry Service: Quercus macrocarpa Bur Oak
  • North Dakota State University: Bur Oak
  • University of Minnesota: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: pruning bur oak trees, Quercus macrocarpa, trimming an oak tree

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.