Why Tree Topping Should Not Be at The Top of Your List: Part 1

Even after 25 years of research and documentation about the harmful effects, tree topping is still a common practice. Tree topping is easily the most harmful pruning technique possible, yet people will choose to harm their trees in this manner.

What is Tree Topping and Why would someone choose to top a tree off?

Simply put, tree topping is a practice of cutting branches off to stubs or weak lateral branches without concern for the long-term health of the tree. Tree topping can also be referred to as “tipping”, “heading”, “hat-racking”, or “rounding over”. By pruning the tree in this manner, the tree’s future is greatly in question, resting upon an irrecoverable stump or a branch not able to be the central core of the tree.

The excuses given for utilizing the topping method generally are– “The tree is getting too big for my yard,” or “The tree looks like it might fall on my house.” Although the tree’s size is reduced by this arboreal method, the risk posed to your property is not actually neutralized.

Why is Tree Topping so bad?

  1. Topping stresses your tree out!

The human body has many adverse reactions to undue stress, so it is no surprise that a tree also has many detrimental effects from too much stress. The top of a tree is extremely important because 50-100% of the leaf-bearing crown is located there. Leaves may not seem that essential, but they are necessary for a tree to be fed. When removed at an alarming rate, the tree goes into starvation mode and survival mechanisms kick in at full force. Basically, the tree is desperately trying to regenerate itself in any way possible. Blooms which should have remained dormant are encouraged along too quickly and the tree forces new growth through off shoots below every cut. Obviously, this intensely fast regeneration takes a great deal of energy. If a tree is not already quite hearty nor holding much reserved energy, the tree will likely die, or will be severely weakened at best. It is easy to see how negative stress and starvation would be for a person and trees are no different.

  1. Topping can lead to decay and disease!

The issue is with topping and not with pruning in general. Pruning can be done in an appropriate way which will not endanger a tree. Proper pruning methods dictate that all cuts are made at the point of attachment, beyond the branch collar. Think of these cuts like a scrape on the knee of a toddler. The body is prepared to heal small scrapes without any sort of serious medical intervention. Healthy trees are similarly equipped to handle pruning cuts made at the appropriate junctures when the size of the wound is not too big. Topping methods involve making cuts between branches which leaves a stub that the tree may not be able to naturally heal up. Over time, the exposed wood tissues will start to decay. Although a tree will try to contain the decay, dealing with multiple wounds caused by the topping process may cause the decay to overpower the tree and spread throughout the originally healthy parts. The open wounds on the tree will also attract insects and disease which combined with decay will be insurmountable odds for a tree to overcome.

Tune back in for even more reasons to consider other alternatives to tree topping as well as solutions to trees overgrowth!

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