How to Prune Swamp Chestnut Oak


The swamp chestnut oak, or Quercus michauxii, also is known as the cow oak (cows eat the acorns). It is a deciduous tree reaching heights of 60 to 80 feet and a spread of 50 to 70 feet. The crown is narrow and its leaves turn bronze or reddish in the fall. Pruning will consist of: removal of dead, diseased, or damaged branches, to maintain size (width) within in your landscape design, to keep branches away from buildings, walkways, and roofs, and to thin out deadwood from the crown of the tree.

Step 1

Prune any damaged or diseased branches as soon as possible. You will remove them at the breaking point or you can cut off the entire branch or limb. Make a clean cut so that the wound can heal properly. Prune dead or diseased branches at any time of the year.

Step 2

Look at your tree from all angles and determine whether there are any branches that need to be pruned to maintain size or to insure safety. Locate the branch collar. This is on the underside of the branch where it connects to the trunk. Locate the branch bark ridge of the branch that you are going to prune. This is on the topside of the branch where it connects to the trunk.

Step 3

Cut off the branch in front of the branch bark ridge and the branch collar. Do not leave a stub. Be careful not to cut into the branch collar or the branch bark ridge for the integrity and health of the tree. Do this when the tree is dormant, which is in winter or early spring.

Step 4

Visually examine the crown of the tree to determine whether you need to have the deadwood such as dead twigs, branches or limbs removed from the crown of the tree. Arborists refer to this as "thinning" of the crown. Because this procedure is normally done on mature trees, you will need to have a professional tree service do the thinning. Professionals are accustomed to working at tall heights, and they are also knowledgeable as to what limbs and branches can be cut without damaging the health and appearance of the tree.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never attempt to prune a tree that is close to electrical wires. This should be left to the electric company. Do not try to cut down heavy limbs because they can cause property damage or personal injury when they fall. Call a tree service.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand-pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pole pruner
  • Tree saw


  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • School of Forest Resources and Conservation
  • Nature Hills Nursery
Keywords: swamp chestnut oak prune, cut off remove branches dead, thinning crown tree limbs

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.