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Tree Works Presents the Many Downsides of Tree Topping

Tree topping, the practice of removing large branches or trunks from the top of a tree’s canopy, is a harmful practice that the expert arborists from Tree Works discourage for several reasons. We offer many other effective tree services to help you maintain the health and beauty of your trees and shrubs.


Tree Topping is Expensive

The cost of topping a tree is not limited to what you pay your arborist. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again within a few years. If the tree dies as a result of tree topping, it will need to be removed at an additional cost.


Topping is a high-maintenance pruning practice and there are some hidden costs of topping; one is the reduction in property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10-20% to the value of a property. Disfigured, topped trees decrease property values. Another potential cost of topped trees is liability. Topped trees are prone to breaking and can be hazardous and because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law.

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Tree Topping Causes Decay

The preferred location to make a pruning cut is just beyond the branch collar at the branches’ point of attachment. The tree is biologically equipped to close such a wound as long as the tree is healthy and the wound is not too large. Cuts made along a limb, between lateral branches, create stubs with wounds that the tree may not be able to close; the exposed wood tissues begin to decay. Normally a tree will "wall off,” or compartmentalize, the decaying tissues, but few trees can defend the multiple severe wounds caused by topping. The decaying organisms are given a free path to move down through the branches.


Topping Can Lead to Sunburn

Branches within a tree's crown produce thousands of leaves to absorb sunlight. When the leaves are removed, the remaining branches and trunk are suddenly exposed to high levels of light and heat. The result may be sunburn of the tissues beneath the bark. This can lead to cankers, bark splitting and death of some branches.


Topping Creates Hazards

The survival mechanism that causes a tree to produce multiple chutes below each topping cut comes at great expense to the tree. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the old branches. Unlike normal branches that develop in a "socket" of overlapping wood tissues, these new chutes are only anchored in the outermost layers of the parent branches. The new chutes grow very quickly, as much as 20 feet in one year in some species. Unfortunately, the chutes are very prone to breaking, especially during windy conditions. The irony is that while the goal was to reduce the tree's height to make it safer, it has been made more hazardous than before.


Topping Makes Trees Ugly

The natural branching structure of a tree is a biological wonder. Trees form a variety of shapes and growth habits, all with the same goal of presenting their leaves to the sun. Topping removes the ends of the branches, often leaving ugly stubs, and destroys the natural form of a tree. Without the leaves (up to 6 months of the year in temperate climates), a topped tree appears disfigured and mutilated. With the leaves, it is a dense ball of foliage, lacking its simple grace. A tree that has been topped can never fully regain its natural form.

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