Useful info

  1. Recognizing the difference between a Registered Consulting Arborist and a Certified Arborist
  2. Tree protection in your city (or county)
  3. Benefits of the urban forest
  4. Topping trees
  5. Planting trees
  6. Hiring someone to prune your trees

Recognizing the difference between a Registered Consulting Arborist and a Certified Arborist

The Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA) designation is provided by the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). The requirements for becoming an RCA are much more stringent than those for becoming a Certified Arborist, and include more years of experience, attendance in an intensive training program, and production of professionally reviewed consulting reports. To read more, or to find a Registered Consulting Arborist in your area, visit the American Society of Consulting Arborists website.

A Certified Arborist has fulfilled an examination, and experience and education requirements, set forth by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). To read more, or to find a Certified Arborist in your area, visit the International Society of Arboriculture website.

Both have demonstrated knowledge of arboriculture, and both are likely to work with trees. Both are required to continue their education to maintain their certification or registration and, therefore, should understand current arboricultural issues and techniques. Although both titles indicate that the person has education and experience related to trees, neither title can guarantee or ensure quality work.

return to top


Tree protection in your city (or county)

Each city and county in Southern California deals differently with tree protection issues. While some municipalities have no protection measures, many have a Tree Protection Program, an Oak Tree Ordinance, or similar programs or laws. Ignoring the measures a local government has in place can lead to project delays, fines, or other means of enforcement.

If you are concerned about municipal requirements or restrictions related to trees, contact the city in which the tree is located (or the county, if in an unincorporated area). While the city or county department which administers a tree protection ordinance does vary from place to place, information can usually be obtained by contacting Planning, Public Works or Parks and Recreation. Start with the website or general telephone information line for your local government.

return to top


Benefits of the urban forest

(this information comes from the Center for Urban Forest Research, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis, California. Spring 2003)

Research has shown that healthy city trees:

  • Create cleaner, healthier and more breathable air.
  • Cool parking lots and parked cars.
  • Mitigate the impacts of urban heat islands.
  • Shade homes and buildings making them cooler and more energy efficient.
  • Block winter winds.
  • Retain rain on their leaf and branch surfaces, lessening the impact of storm runoff.
  • Increase real estate values.
  • Provide neighborhoods with a sense of place.
  • Attract more shoppers and more money to business districts.
  • Attract new business, homeowners and tourism.
  • Reduce domestic violence and crime.
  • Improve children’s performance in school.
  • Shorten hospital stays and reduce need for medication.
  • Lessen exposure to damaging solar radiation.
  • Provide restorative experiences that ease mental fatigue and stress.

    return to top


Topping trees

Topping (reducing the height of a tree by indiscriminately cutting main branches back to stubs) is a common practice in Southern California, but is considered unacceptable by arboricultural professionals. Just one instance of topping can destroy a tree’s natural branching structure, leaving the tree ugly, potentially unsafe and in need of repeated maintenance.

When a tree is topped, it responds by producing vigorous (but weakly attached) shoots where the improper pruning cuts have been made. The wood where the cuts were made is very likely to decay, further weakening the attachment of these new shoots, and creating potentially unsafe conditions as the tree grows larger. These shoots grow more quickly than those on a properly-pruned tree, and will need to be pruned more often.

There are other methods to reduce the size of a tree, which will be more effective and safer (and quite possibly less expensive) in the long term. For a more detailed overview of topping, visit the International Society of Arboriculture website and look at their handout on “Why Topping Hurts Trees“.

return to top


Planting trees

Selecting the right kind of tree requires a little bit of planning and research. The Sunset Western Garden book is one of several resources for understanding the environmental needs of plants, particularly in Southern California.

Some things to consider about the planting location:

  • How much sun will the tree receive?
  • How much water will the tree receive?
  • Are there any obstacles to growth, such as utility lines overhead, or a sidewalk or building nearby?
  • Will the tree be planted in a place where falling leaves or fruit on the ground would be a nuisance? (for example, over a driveway or pool)

Some things to consider about the tree you select:

  • What is the mature size of the tree?
  • What is the natural shape of the tree? (narrow, broad, weeping)
  • Does the tree drop fruit or seed pods which could be considered undesirable?
  • How much water and sunlight does the tree need, and how much can it tolerate?

For a more detailed overview of tree selection, visit the International Society of Arboriculture website.

Many newly-planted trees are tied to a planting stake. While a stake may provide needed support soon after a tree has been planted, the nursery stake should always be removed, and if the tree is able to stand without it, no re-staking may be required. In any case, all stakes should be removed as soon as the tree is able to stand up without them (usually within one to two years of planting). If a tree at this stage is very top-heavy, it may be desirable to prune the tree until it can support itself without stakes. A tree that is staked for too long will never be strong enough to support itself without the stake, and the stake ties can injure the tree as the tree grows and the ties become tighter.

return to top


Hiring someone to prune your trees

Knowing you have hired the right person to prune your trees can be difficult, but a good rule of thumb is to always hire a Certified Arborist. To search for a Certified Arborist in your area, visit the International Society of Arboriculture website.

Clients sometimes ask us to recommend a pruning company. Although we are in no way affiliated with any pruning company and assume no responsibility for the quality of anyone’s work, we do provide a list of pruning companies which we believe are competent. To request our pruning referrals list, please contact us using the online form.

return to top

Please note: We are not affiliated with any organization listed in this website. We do, however, share a common professional interest in educating the general public about trees.

return to top