Structural analysis of tree trunks and branches: tapered cantilever beams subject to large deflections under complex loading

Tree Physiol. 1987 Dec;3(4):365-74. doi: 10.1093/treephys/3.4.365.


The dimensions, deflections and support costs of tree trunks and branches can be deduced using the structural theory for cantilever beams. However, elementary theory applies only as long as deflections are small, and complex analytical solutions are required to account for complex taper and patterns of loading. This paper describes a method that copes with large deflections, any patterns of taper, and any patterns of distributed loading, point loading or externally applied bending moments. A beam is considered to be composed of a series of short segments, such that each has only a small deflection, and each can have specified dimensions, Young's modulus and loading. The transport matrix method of structural analysis is used to determine the end conditions of each segment and of the whole beam. The method is verified by comparing predicted deflections with deflections (a) calculated using an analytical solution by Bisshopp and Drucker (1945), (b) calculated and measured for sapling tree trunks by Leiser and Kemper (1968), and (c) measured on tapered and untapered plastic rods.