If you haven't heard the term before, tree topping is the act of cutting off the top central stem of a tree, and the upper main branches. In most cases, both the stem and upper branches are sheared off at uniform heights. This results in a tree with thin upright branches at the top. Topping trees seriously affect their health, value and the landscape. It leaves the tree susceptible to diseases, insects, and decay. It also reduces the property value by up to 20%. The level of the environmental hazard created by topped trees is increased since the branch stubs decay and may fall. Even the water sprouts growing at the top have weak, shallow anchors that can break off during a storm.
How Topping Hurt Trees
Topping Invites Disease
Trees are equipped to close their wounds when they are pruned at the branch attachment point. The large cut at the stem does not close. The large wounds take longer to heal and serves as an entry point for disease organisms and insects. It allows sunlight to enter the central parts of the tree resulting in sunscald, peeling bark and cracks on the stem.
Topping Stresses Trees
Topping a tree removes almost 100% of its leaf surface. Tree topping damages trees since it removes much of the leaf surface so the tree cannot produce the needed food for survival and storage. This temporary absence of leaves will starve the tree, therefore, stressing it. The tree will then react by rapidly developing multiple shoots from the buds below the cut stem. This is a survival mechanism to bring up new leaves so the tree can continue making food. If the tree has inadequate food reserve, it will wither and die prematurely.
Doesn’t Control Size
The primary reason most people top trees is to control the tree's size. There seems to be logic there, but it's unfounded logic. After a tree is topped, it will rapidly and desperately grow shoots to make food. These new shoots, in some species, can grow up to 20 feet in just one year. This will be much faster than it took the tree to grow to its original height. Tree topping disfigures and damages the tree and in some cases results in its death.
Make New Branches Weaker
As the new shoot grows rapidly from the buds of the parent branch, they rise fast but with inadequate grounding. They have weak attachments on the stem and can easily break off in a storm or when they become big years later.
Topping is Expensive
It is costly to top trees since it will rapidly grow shoots that will need to be topped again leading to a vicious cycle. Each sprout when cut will multiply the number of next generation shoots making it more and more expensive to manage and results in even an uglier tree.
When it is necessary to modify the height of your trees or its spread, give us a call. We will assess the type of pruning your tree needs to be safe, healthy and improve the appearance of the tree.