Should You Remove Trees With Epicormic Shoots?

Posted on: 16 March 2023

Watching a fragile sapling grow into a tall and stately tree is one of the miracles of nature, but that doesn't mean that tree growth is always a good thing. If a mature tree starts sprouting small, slender branches from the base of its trunk, don't ignore them — these branches are called epicormic shoots and can spell serious trouble for your tree.

What Are Epicormic Shoots?

Tree branches grow from buds, and at this time of year, you may see small, green or purple buds growing along your tree's branches. However, not all of these buds are visible. Some branch buds, known as epicormic buds, are hidden under the bark of your tree's trunk. Under normal circumstances, these buds remain dormant and do not grow into branches.

If and when these buds do start to grow, they form epicormic sprouts. These are small branches that are loosely attached to the tree's trunk and usually grow thick foliage and leaf cover in a short space of time. In most cases, epicormic shoots appear around the base of a tree's trunk, but some species may sprout epicormic shoots from the bases of their larger branches.

What Causes Epicormic Shoots To Grow?

If your tree has started growing epicormic shoots, it is probably responding to injury, disease, or a drastic change in its environment. Here are some of the most common causes of epicormic shoot growth:

Overexposure To Sunlight

If your tree was exposed to a lot of sunlight over the winter, it may be suffering from sunscald. Sunscald occurs when tree bark is woken from its winter dormancy by prolonged sunshine and then frozen and damaged when cold weather returns. To protect the damaged bark, your tree may sprout epicormic shoots. The leaves of these new branches will provide shade for the stricken bark.

This problem only affects deciduous trees, since evergreen trees do not enter dormancy during winter. It is common in trees that are suddenly receiving more sunlight due to the removal of nearby trees or buildings.

Storm Damage

If your tree was badly damaged by a recent storm, it may require extra energy to repair itself. Epicormic shoots allow a tree to grow new leaves quickly, which will photosynthesize more sunlight into energy. 


Similarly, if your tree is suffering from a fungal or bacterial infection, it may need extra energy to try and fight off the disease. Look for epicormic shoots growing near patches of visibly dying or diseased bark.

Excessive Pruning

If you recently pruned your tree and removed too much material, the tree may grow epicormic shoots to try and compensate for the lost leaves and branches. The combination of excessive pruning and expending energy growing new branches places the tree under extreme stress and can kill weaker trees outright.

Should You Remove Trees With Epicormic Shoots?

Epicormic shoots function as distress signals for damaged trees. If you find them growing on your tree, you should call in a professional tree services company as soon as possible to inspect your tree for signs of damage or disease.

When your tree service company finds out why your tree has started growing epicormic shoots, they will advise you on whether or not the tree should be removed. If the tree has been seriously damaged by a major storm or is suffering from an advanced disease that cannot be effectively cured, removal may sadly be the best option. 

If your service thinks the tree is worth saving, they can help the tree by pruning damaged and/or diseased tissues and allowing the healthy portions of the tree to heal. In most cases, the epicormic shoots should not be removed, as this may cause the tree to grow even more shoots and overexert itself. Instead, your service will remove the weaker shoots and allow the remaining shoots to grow into mature branches.

Contact a company like Allen's Tree Service, Inc. to learn more.