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What You Need To Know About Topping Trees

This week I am going to be sharing information about the practice of “topping”. Arborists consider topping to be one of the most harmful pruning practices known.

Hello again, Ryan Tartisel here talking about trees. This week I am going to be sharing information about the practice of “topping”. Arborists consider topping to be one of the most harmful pruning practices known yet here in the north east it is still a common practice.

What exactly is topping? According to the International Society of Arboriculture “Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role”. To the average person that means making bad cuts in the wrong place to reduce the size of a tree. In most circumstances topping is fatal to trees, expensive and is aesthetically terrible. 

Last week I was at my parents house, snooping around their front yard and checking out their trees. I noticed that their neighbor had huge old oak tree that had recently been topped. What once was a gorgeous tree now had much of its long branches cut back at the base. Imagine buying a 7 foot tall Christmas tree and cutting off the top 3 feet. The beauty is instantly diminished. 

I explained to my stepdad that the tree would not survive due to what had been done to it, and that the tree was likely going to become a hazard. While I was standing there the neighbor came out to see what we were doing. I politely explained the same thing to him and without hesitation he emphatically explained to me that I was wrong and it would be fine. 

That's when it dawned on me, it's not this guys fault. He really thought he was doing what was best for the tree, despite the fact that for over 30 years arborists have known how terrible this practice is. In the meantime, someone with a chainsaw and a bucket truck came out to his house, likely charged him well over a thousand dollars and fatally wounded his tree for him. In this situation the importance of hiring an ethical, licensed arborist can not be understated.

Besides making trees ugly, topping starts in motion a host of problems for the tree. Topping is well know to heavily stress a tree making it more susceptible to disease and insect attacks. The improper cuts will allow for decay and the lack of shade can sunburn the tree. The ISA has produced some great material about exactly what goes on biologically with a tree that has been topped I suggest you check it out if you are interested in learning more. 

Most of all Topping is irresponsible, it takes advantage of people who want whats best for their trees and trust a “professional” to help them. I hope that this has been informative, I have included some pictures of trees that have been topped so that you know exactly what to look for. As usual let me know if you have any questions or comments!  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jay January 29, 2013 at 07:49 PM
wilver maples have a small root ball and it is shallow .Any thoughts about what can be done to make it bigger and more secure?
Ryan February 01, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Hey Jay, Are you asking what will help to make Silver Maple roots stronger and robust?
Shoreline Lady February 01, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Good info!

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