What’s Tree Topping & Why it’s Bad
Chop it From Your Tree Care To-Do List
December 28, 2023
While pruning is an important task to help maintain a healthy tree, there are some practices that can do more harm than good. Tree topping results is one example. Learn what it is, why people do it, and alternative tree care options.
What is Tree Topping
Without regular pruning, some trees can become overgrown with canopies draping over structures and blocking a preferable view. To quickly fix this issue, some people have decided to drastically remove large branches from the top of the tree. This is known as tree topping, and it’s considered a controversial and detrimental tree pruning practice. Other reasons given for tree topping include:
- Reduce tree height
- Overpruning dead or diseased branches
- Repairing storm damage
No matter the reason for pruning, cutting too much from the top can have severe consequences that puts the tree’s health and structure at risk.
Tree Topping Results
Tree pruning is essential for the health of your tree, but only when necessary. Weak branches should be pruned to decrease the risk of breaking and becoming hazardous. However, there’s a chance of harming the tree if you’re unfamiliar with the proper pruning methods. Removing too much of the crown can have the following negative results:
- Weakened structure. Remember, a tree’s crown contains essential foliage that produces energy for the tree. Removing a significant portion of the crown disrupts this process, weakening the tree from the top to the roots.
- Large, open wounds. Depending on when you prune the tree, it may not have time to properly heal. Too many wounds expose the tree to more infection and pest infestation. When pruned in the wet and warm spring and summer seasons, you’re inviting fungi and bacteria to enter the tree through the wound.
- Unsightly. If you think your tree looks bad before you top it, it’s about to look even worse. Topped trees start bare where cut and then regrow multiple shorter shoots that become disproportionate to the tree structure. If you’re looking to improve your view, prune the tree properly or incorporate the tree into a scenic design.
- Unhealthy regrowth. Any time a branch is cut, it signals the tree to focus energy on regrowing that area. When too many branches are cut, it initiates rapid regrowth. When multiple new shoots sprout from a single area, it’s not only unsightly, but this section is also more weak and prone to pests and disease.
- Shorter lifespan. Topping a tree is giving the plant a death sentence. From the increased risk of pests and disease to the weakened structure, your topped tree is more likely to die prematurely. Then you’re left with having to consider tree removal, which is another expense.
There’s a way to prevent tree topping from ruining your landscape. Proper pruning techniques help ensure the tree doesn’t become overgrown or requires too much trimming at once.
Professional Tree Care
One of the best ways to properly care for a tree is to consult with a certified arborist. A true professional will never suggest tree topping. Alternatives such as selective branch removal and crown thinning help preserve the natural structure and health of trees. Contact the tree care specialists at Elite Tree Care to consult over the specific needs of your trees and guide you toward responsible pruning practices.
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