Is Tree Topping Really Beneficial?

Tree Topping May Present More Problems Than Solutions

Topping has long been regarded as an effective way of taking care of a tree. But is it really safe? In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of topping while also presenting some effective alternatives. Is it just as effective as root pruning is to taking care of roots?

What Is Tree Topping?

In most cases, topping is used to reduce the size of a tree. For example, a homeowner may feel that topping is the only way to handle that overgrown tree in their yard. Keep in mind, however, that topping is anything but a safe option to reduce foliage and fails to reduce future risk. Believe it or not, topping actually increases risk down the road.

Why Is Topping So Dangerous?

  • It leads to decay – What does the correct tree pruning methods entail? When you hire a tree company for pruning, they will make cuts just beyond the branch collar. The tree is biologically capable of closing this type of wound so long as it’s in good enough condition and the wound isn’t too large. On the other hand, cuts made along a limb between lateral branches create stubs with wounds that the tree will struggle to close. This exposed tissue will begin to decay, giving microorganisms a chance to infect the tree.
  • It can lead to sunburn – Just like we get a sunburn, so too does a tree without thousands of leaves to absorb sunlight. When a tree’s leaves are removed, the remaining branches and trunk are exposed to harsh sunlight. Sunburn of tissues beneath the bark can result in cankers, bark splitting, and the death of some branches.
  • It stresses trees – Topping can eliminate 50 to 100% of a tree’s leaf-bearing crown. At first thought, it sounds like a huge time-saver in the fall to not have to spend hours raking. But removing them can temporarily starve a tree and trigger a number of survival mechanisms. Your tree might choose to activate its dormant buds, which forces the growth of multiple shoots below each cut. Just remember that a stressed tree with large, open pruning wounds is more vulnerable to disease and insect infestation.
  • It makes trees ugly – Take a moment to think of your favorite tree. Do the leaves burst with color? Do the branches expand in amazing fashion? Though trees consist of different shapes and growth habits, each shares the goal of showing their leaves to the sun. Not only does topping remove the ends of branches, but it leaves ugly stubs. Simply put, topping completely destroys a tree’s natural form that leaves us speechless. But without leaves, a topped tree appears disfigured and mutilated. Far too many homeowners and tree care services believe that a topped tree can fully regain its natural form. That notion is completely false in reality.

Tree Topping Alternatives

Now that you understand the dangers of topping, let’s dive into some alternatives that will maintain the health and safety of your tree:

  • Reduce the tree in height or spread
  • Remove small branches back to their point of origin
  • Prune the larger limbs back to a lateral branch that’s large enough to assume the terminal role

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