Effects of Pruning on Wood Density and Tracheid Length in Young Douglas-Fir

Barbara L. Gartner, James M. Robbins, Michael Newton


To study whether pruning young Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco var. menziesii) hastens the transition from juvenile to mature wood, we investigated the effects on wood properties in an intensively managed young plantation in the Coast Range of Oregon. Ten years after trees were pruned to a fixed height (3.4 or 5.5 m), we investigated the effects on wood density (in 12 trees per pruning treatment, two or three treatments per age class, three age classes, and two heights for a total of 168 cores) and tracheid length (in four trees per treatment, one height and age class only, for 12 trees total). The trees were 13, 16, and 18 years old when pruned in 1988. Removal of 50% of the live crown in young trees caused a small one-year decline in growth ring width at breast height, but removal of 30% of the live crown did not. In partial contrast, pruning caused no detectable effect on wood density at breast height, presumably because the branches were in the lower crown, and were not contributing much to the growth of the bole. Pruning caused a small increase in wood density at the upper height (5.3 m) in the youngest age class (for which this 5.5 m pruning would be removing vigorous live branches at this height) but not in the medium age class (for which the pruning would be removing lower live crown at this height) or in the oldest age class (for which there would have been no live branches at 5.5-m). Pruning the youngest trees caused a 3-4 year increase in tracheid length at breast height. In summary, pruning had very small or no effect on growth ring width, density, or tracheid length; but the effects that it had were the ones expected if pruning accelerated the transition from juvenile to mature wood. The larger benefit of pruning, especially if done early in rotation, is to shorten branch healing time and provide for a longer period of clear wood production.


Pruning;wood density;tracheid length;Douglas-fir;juvenile wood;mature wood

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