Tree support can be very beneficial for the reduction of risk on a tree that has targets present (things that the tree parts can hit and damage in the event of a failure.)  In the case of cabling, bracing, and lightning protection, the mitigation is considered permanent;  the systems must stay in place for the life of the tree and be periodically inspected to ensure proper working order and condition.  That being said, any codominant situations that can be corrected with proper reduction pruning will take precedence over installing a support system.  Some limbs, however, are too large to be safely pruned with overall tree health in mind, and as such, support systems will be recommended.  There really is no "one way fits all".  Every tree with risk must be evaluated individually.

Cabling/Bracing Support

Some trees require support to keep limbs or codominant stems from splitting.  Tree cabling and bracing may be required for:

  • keeping a poorly attached limb from splitting off and tearing a large wound in a tree.
  • co-dominant trunks with included bark (V-shaped union) and risk of splitting and damaging persons or property.
  • those codominant stems with a U-shaped union should still have cabling, but the installation differs from a V-shaped union.

Lightning Protection

We can install lightning protection systems to direct strikes to trees safely down into the ground, outside of the tree, rather than through it.  Candidates may be:

  • heritage trees or those of special importance
  • very tall trees next to structures in lightning prone areas
  • trees struck in the past that have survived

There are two COBRA cable systems installed in this maple to support weak crotches.  Can you find them?

Support systems may be static steel cables, dynamic COBRA cables, wood-rod bracing, or a combination.  Many are barely visible to the untrained eye, so aesthetics is generally not an issue!

This large maple (protected by lightning system) is on a hilltop next to the house patio and has two trunk stems with a weak crotch (supported by COBRA cable).

Lightning systems consist of an air terminal at the top, a conducting wire running down the outside of the bark, and a ground rod to direct the voltage away from the tree.


  • Both tree support systems and lightning protection systems should be periodically inspected by a qualified individual, both visually from the ground and aerially to ensure the system is in proper working condition and if adjustments need to be made.
  • Tree support and lightning protection are very effective in the right situation, however it is important to note these systems do NOT eliminate risk, only reduce it.  We can advise you on whether one of these systems is needed for your tree, or other risk mitigation is required.  In the end, the acceptance of risk tolerance is up to you, the homeowner.  Again, we can only reduce the risk, not eliminate it.