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How to Prune Swamp White Oak


Minimize the chance of carrying diseases from one plant--or part of a tree--to another. Sterilize pruning tools with a solution of 10 percent bleach or 50 percent rubbing alcohol with water.

Do not use tree sealant on pruning cuts. It attracts insects and traps moisture that can encourage fungi.


Wear eye protection and gloves when trimming trees.

Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) is native to the Midwest but can be found as far north as Quebec and as far south as North Carolina. Swamp white oaks are generally self-pruning, although some cultural maintenance is required to keep these moisture-loving trees healthy. They can grow from 30 to 80 feet tall.

Prune swamp white oaks during the dry season when the tree is dormant. Pruning from April to the first hard freeze in late October or November can expose trees to oak wilt, an invasive disease that hails from Southern oak forests. Sterilize tools before and after use.

Remove low branches from the trunk, or leader. Cut close to the bulging branch collar near the trunk, but not into it. This collar will shrink around the vulnerable edges after pruning. Double-cut any branch more than 2 inches in diameter to avoid shredding the branch and damaging the collar. Saw from under the branch about 4 inches out from the trunk, then make a second cut down near the collar all the way through the branch. Cut away from the collar but do not leave a stump that will extend too far for the collar to grow over.

Trim damaged, diseased or dangerous branches that hang over walkways or driveways.

Shape swamp white oaks to maintain their open crown by removing branches that crowd the center or cross over and rub against each other. Remove the entire branch rather than just part of it.

Consult a tree expert or your city forester before undertaking any major pruning of a white oak. These large trees have irregular crowns that can be easily damaged.

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