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  One way trees prevent themselves from having too many branches is simply by shedding (dropping off) branches once they have fulfilled their purpose. This happens as the tree gets bigger and grows new outer layers of foliage that shade the inner and lower branches. In most large trees, the center of the canopy contains only large branches, small branches and fine twigs are found only at the canopy's edge. In the shaded center, the small branches that would once have occupied that space are long gone. Trees like the true cypresses regularly shed small twigs complete with leaves toward the end of summer. Most other trees shed only branches that prove unproductive. If a branch is not producing enough carbohydrate to cover its own running costs – i.e., it needs to be subsidized by other branches because, for example, it is being shaded and receives little light – it will usually be got rid of. This prevents unproductive branches from being a drain on the tree and removes the wind drag (the force of air resistance) from useless branches.   Branches are shed for reasons other than lack of light. In dry parts of the world, it is common for trees and shrubs to lose smaller branches to save water. Small branches have the thinnest bark (the protective outer covering of a tree) and greatest surface area and thus are the source of most water loss once the leaves have been lost. The creosote bush of United States deserts self-prunes, or removes parts of itself, in the face of extreme heat or drought, starting from the highest and most exposed twigs and working downward to bigger and bigger branches, it's a desperate act because if the creosote bush loses too much food, it dies. Shedding branches can also be useful for self-propagation. Most poplar trees and willow trees characteristic of waterways will readily drop branches, which take root when washed up on muddy banks further downstream. How are branches shed? In the simplest cases, dead branches rot and fall off, or healthy branches are snapped off by wind, snow, and animals. Some willows have a brittle zone at the base of small branches that encourages breaking in the wind, seemingly for propagation. Other cases of "natural pruning" are more startling: elm trees, and to a certain extent others, such as oaks, have a reputation for dropping large branches (up to half a meter in diameter) with no warning on calm, hot afternoons. Such dramatic shedding appears to be due to a combination of internal water stress coupled with heat expansion affecting cracks and decayed wood. Many trees, however, shed branches deliberately. In this situation, branches are shed in the same way as foliage in autumn by the prior formation of a corky layer that leaves the wound sealed over with cork, which in turn is undergrown with wood the following year. In hardwoods, branches up to a meter in length and several centimeters in diameter can be shed normally after the leaves have fallen in the autumn (maples are unusual in casting branches mainly in spring and early summer). Oaks tend to shed small twigs up to the thickness of a pencil, beech may shed larger ones, and birches dump whole branches of dead twigs. Pine trees shed their clusters of needles (which really are short branches), and members of the redwood family shed their small branchlets with leaves. Typically in hardwood trees, something around 10 percent of terminal branches are lost each year through a mixture of deliberate shedding and being broken off. Another way of reducing potential congestion is to make some branches smaller than others. Branches in the shade grow smaller than those in the sun. But trees can also regulate branch length from within. In many trees there is a clear distinction between long and short branches or shoots. The long shoots build the framework of the tree, making it bigger. The job of the short shoots (called spur shoots by horticulturalists) is to produce leaves, and commonly flowers, at more or less the same position every year. To maintain flexibility, any one shoot can switch from long to short or vice versa depending on internal factors, light levels, and damage.