Volunteers prune shade trees along Mahantongo Street in Pottsville

Jan. 24—POTTSVILLE — Volunteers pruned a group of aging, overgrown shade trees Tuesday along Mahantongo Street.

Jane Kruse, chair of the Pottsville Shade Tree Commission, led the initiative, which involved more than 10 trees along five blocks of the street, from the John O'Hara House to Yuengling Bicentennial Park.

Also assisting in the efforts were Frank Snyder, a member of the Schuylkill County Conservancy, and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Will Thomas, service forester for Schuylkill and Carbon counties.

Together, the trio pruned many different species of trees, including ginkgo biloba, Callery pear, thornless honeylocust and various types of oak.

As they set to work, clearing dead wood and cutting off branches with pole saws, the volunteers took great care to prune the trees using the proper techniques.

Snyder stressed the importance of pruning trees along the branch collar, or the bulbous area between a branch and the trunk, to ensure the trees' health and longevity.

"That's the secret to pruning — locate the branch collar and prune right in front of it," Snyder said.

When a tree limb is cut properly, he said, it will result in a doughnut-shaped hole sealed with a dry covering called a callous.

The callous indicates that the wound has healed and prevents moisture from entering the tree, Snyder said. If the branch collar is damaged, the tree does not seal off the area properly.

"You can see that the tissue tore," said Thomas, pointing to a poorly cut limb. "There's a patch of bare wood underneath it, and that won't heal as well as a nice, clean cut."

According to the United States Forest Service, the main reasons for pruning ornamental and shade trees include safety, health and aesthetics, as well as to stimulate fruit production and increase the value of timber.

Snyder said that homeowners often prune trees improperly, resulting in stub cuts, or cuts made too far outside the branch bark ridge or branch collar.

In addition to branch collars, Snyder said, people should look to prune trees along lateral branches.

Many of the trees earmarked for the initiative Tuesday were more than 30 years old and were long overdue for pruning.

Kruse said the Shade Tree Commission prunes its trees at least every two years.

Snyder said he actually prefers pruning trees to planting them.

"You can really change the life of the tree when they're young," he said.

Contact the writer: hlee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6085