Sapling and Poletimber Stands

Competition among trees eliminates poor quality and low-vigor trees throughout the life of a stand. In sapling and poletimber stands, focus your management on identifying potential crop trees and encouraging their growth. Typical objectives are to:

Weeding is the practice of removing undesirable tree species that take up valuable growing space. Culling is the removal of trees that have no commercial value because of poor form, damage, or other physical defects. Thinning involves selectively cutting trees of a desirable species to give the remaining trees more growing space. Pruning removes limbs to straighten saplings or to allow knot-free wood to develop on poletimber trees. These practices collectively are called timber stand improvement (TSI). In TSI, your first step is to pick the objective, then determine which trees should be left in the stand and how to maximize their growth and potential.

For general woodland health:

If timber production is your goal, determine what products you wish to grow (for example, fuelwood, pulpwood, sawtimber, or veneer), then learn what tree species, size, and wood quality are required for those products. During TSI (Figure 5-1), encourage the growth of potential crop trees that:

If your goal is to improve wildlife habitat, decide which wildlife species or groups of species you want to encourage and learn about their habitat needs. Use TSI to create appropriate habitat, such as:


If visual quality is a concern during TSI:

TSI may be commercial or pre-commercial, depending on whether cut trees can be sold for a profit. Pre-commercial TSI, however, is often economical in the long run because it sustains tree growth, shortens the time to harvest, and improves tree quality.

The following TSI recommendations are aimed at sustaining a healthy forest primarily for timber: