Why NOT to “ Top”-
Eight Good Reasons.
Good pruning practices rarely remove more than 30% of the
crown, which in turn does not seriously interfere with the
ability of a trees leafy crown to manufacture food. Topping
removes so much of the crown that it upsets on older trees
well developed crown- to- root ratio and temporarily cuts
off its food- making ability.
A trees crown is like an umbrella that shields much of the
tree from the direct rays of the sun. By suddenly removing
this protection, the remaining bark tissue is so exposed that
scalding may result. There may also be a dramatic effect on
neighbouring trees and shrubs. If these thrive in shade and
the shade is removed, poor health or death may result.
3. Insects & Disease
The large stubs of a topped tree have difficulty in
forming a callus. The terminal location of these cuts, as
well as their large diameter, prevent the trees chemically
based natural defence system from doing its job. The stubs
are highly vulnerable to insect invasion and the spores of
decay fungi. If decay is already present in the limb, opening
the limb will speed the spread of the disease.
4. Weak Limbs
At best, the wood of a new limb that sprouts after a larger
limb is truncated is more weakly attached than a limb that
develops more naturally. If rot exists or develops at the
severed end of the limb, the weight of the sprout makes a
bad situation even worse.
5. Rapid New Growth
The goal of topping is usually to control the height and spread
of a tree. Actually, it has the opposite effect. The resulting
sprouts (often called water sprouts) are far more numerous
than normal new growth and they elongate so rapidly that the
tree returns to its original height in a short time-and with
a far denser crown.
6. Tree Death
Some older trees are more tolerant to topping than others.
Beeches, for example, do not sprout readily after severe pruning
and the reduced foliage most surely will lead to the death
of the tree.
A topped tree is a disfigured tree. Even with its regrowth
it never regains the grace and character of its species. The
landscape and the community are robbed of a valuable asset.
To a worker with a saw, topping a tree is much easier than
applying the skill and judgement of good pruning. Therefore,
topping may cost less in the short run. However the true costs
of topping are hidden. These include reduced property value,
the expense of removal and replacement if the tree dies, the
loss of other trees and shrubs if they succumb to changed
light conditions, the risk of liability from weakened branches,
and increased future maintenance.