Why Topping Trees Destroys the Aesthetics and Structure of Trees


Look at the sucker growth on this topped tree, these branches are weak and when filled with leaves and larger after a few years are hazardous.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Because we are in the tree business and obviously care about trees, it annoys us intensely when we see trees which have been ruined by topping. Topped trees have had their top branches sawed off, leaving stumps.

I would guess that the average home owner would never elect to have their trees destroyed by a tree hacker but once topped and destroyed there is nothing you can do. The structure of the tree could be permanently undermined at best and many die at worste.  This type of tree hacking often occurs when people choose bad tree trimmers, often those who undercut legitimate tree businesses by hiring cheap, inexperienced labor and don’t bother purchasing expensive insurance comp coverage They are less expensive as their overheads are minimal but what is the point of paying someone to destroy trees which have been growing and a part of your landscape for many many years? There are legitimate tree businesses who also do a terrible job and top trees as well, so do your homework, ask for references, check up on licenses and insurance. It is worth it as the job cannot be redone and too late is too late forever.

Is your tree too large, or is it blocking a great view?  Whatever the problem, tree topping is not the solution.   Although tree topping won’t kill a tree right away, it does weaken the tree and increase its susceptibility to insects and diseases.  Tree topping begins the slow but steady death of a tree. It may take many years for a topped tree to die. But, when a topped tree dies from root rot, or does not survive a drought the reason is not so obvious. Because it has taken years for the topped tree to die, the death of the tree is not connected to the cause of the problem. Topped trees are damaged trees. If you are tempted to top a tree because you fear it will fall on your home during a storm you may want to find another solution.  Most trees respond to topping by sending out not just one new branch but scores of weak shoots to replace the one removed.  Because of this growth pattern, tree topping actually increases a tree’s susceptibility to windstorms. The thick re-growth of branches catches even more wind than before it was topped.

A tree does not fall over because it is too big.  A tree falls over because it is weak and structurally unsound.  A healthy tree is designed to withstand even the worst storms. If you are worried about a large tree in your yard there are signs to look for that can tell you if the tree is weak. Is the tree leaning?  Does the tree canopy look yellow and thin?  Are there deep and rotted hollow areas on the trunk? Were roots cut during construction?  Do mushrooms grow on the trunk of the tree? These are all signs that a tree may be a hazard.  Certified arborists, such as Jon Greene are trained in hazardous tree evaluation. If you think a tree is a problem call Greene Tree Care and request a hazardous tree evaluation.

A good professional arborist will not top a tree but will try other techniques to scale it back. There are several alternatives to tree topping. First, pruning is an option.  A tree can be thinned to reduce its bulk. Removing a few carefully chosen branches may be enough to open the canopy to maintain a view without removing the tree. Removing a few lower limbs is all right too. Second, if a tree is truly hazard it is really best to remove it, but this can only be determined by a hazardous tree evaluation. The third option is to learn to love the big trees which are healthy, this might be the least expensive option in the end.