3 Reasons to Never Top a Tree

Posted on: 6 July 2016

Topping refers to the practice of indiscriminately trimming main tree branches down to mere stubs. Unfortunately, this method of pruning a tree is as widespread as it is harmful. If you would like to learn more about why you should avoid this practice at all costs, read on. This article will provide three reasons to never top a tree.

Topping puts the tree under excessive amounts of stress.

Topping usually results in the removal of a significant percentage of a tree's leaf-bearing structures. Because leaves are a tree's way of feeding itself, topping tends to stimulate starvation conditions. This triggers a tree's natural survival tendencies. The tree will attempt to feed itself by forcing the growth of new shoots around each of the cuts.

Unfortunately, trees that are not able to produce a new leaf crop quickly enough often end up dying if they do not possess enough stored energy. Even trees that manage to pull through are at a much greater risk of disease and decay. That's because they simply lack the energy needed to defend themselves against diseases, insects, and other invasive agents.

Topping leads to more damage-prone trees.

The ostensible goal of tree topping is often to reduce the risk of falling branches by lowering the overall height of a tree. Yet the practice of topping actually ends up increasing the risk posed by a tree by making it more vulnerable to damage then it was before. This has to do with the way new branches tend to grow around an old stub.

You see, normally tree branches tend to develop in the sockets between overlapping portions of wood tissue. This helps to firmly anchor the branch, providing a good deal of structural stability once it has fully grown. The branches that a tree produces below a topping cut, on the other hand, develop out of buds located very close to the surface of the branch. In other words, these branches are anchored in a very shallow manner. Thus they are much more prone to breaking in periods of inclement weather.

Topping will end up costing more than less destructive pruning methods.

Many people are seduced into having their tree topped because they believe that it is the least expensive way to maintain a tree. This may be true in the short term, but in the big picture it will likely end up costing you much more. For one thing, the tree may end up dying. If that happens, you'll have to bear the expense of having it removed. Yet even trees that survive being topped end up being more expensive. That's because they usually require intensive forms of corrective pruning down the line. 

For more information, consult a tree-service professional, such as Pete & Ron's Tree Service.