In our last blog we discussed several points on why tree topping is harmful to your trees. Trees that have been topped suffer starvation, shock, insect infestation, decay, weak limbs, and even death. There are no situations when we would ever recommend having your tree topped. So, what can you do instead of tree topping? Here’s what we recommend.
Canopy Reduction. This practice is the removal of small limbs from their point of origin. No more than 25% of the tree’s foliage should be removed, based on its species and health.
Interlimbing or Thinning. This method is best when you prefer your view to be through a tracery of green. Removing selected branches up the trunk provides partial views through the tree and will let more sunlight into your back yard if your trees were blocking it out. Thinning also creates paths for strong winds to move through the tree instead of pushing against them, allowing your tree to withstand those winds.
Raising the Canopy. This process opens up a view by removing the lower limbs of a tree. All branches are cut from the ground up to the desired level. These lower limbs give less energy for the tree’s growth, so the tree can tolerate their removal. To achieve a pleasing shape, be careful not to limb up higher than half the visual height of the tree. If the tree looks top heavy, you can thin out some of the higher branches.
Although these techniques are simple to understand, tree pruning can be dangerous and complicated and is best performed by a professional. To ensure your trees have an aesthetically pleasing shape, consult with a Certified Arborist and make sure to stay away from anyone who suggests tree topping as an option.
Any good tree service company will tell you that tree topping isn’t a good practice. Topping consists of drastically cutting back or removing large branches on mature trees. Not only does this leave the tree looking ugly, but it also causes severe damage to the tree’s health. Often times, homeowners feel their tree has grown too large for the space, or they fear their large tree could become a hazard during a strong storm. Tree topping is NOT the solution for several reasons.
1. Starvation. Leaves produce starches during photosynthesis. The tree then moves these starches to the roots for storage and conversion into the much needed nutrients for the tree to grow and thrive. Tree topping, however, removes so much of the leafy crown that the tree may be unable to produce enough starch to properly nourish itself, leaving the tree to starve.
2. Shock. The crown of the tree acts as a barrier between the hot summer sun and the bark of the tree. Removing a large portion of the crown exposes the bark to sun scald, shocking the tree with direct sunlight. This can result in poor health and even the death of your tree.
3. Insect and Disease. Tree topping cuts can produce large wounds that are difficult to heal because of the location and size of the cuts. These open wounds on the stubs of the tree are a welcome mat to insect infestation and the spread of disease and decay fungi.
4. Weak Limbs. New limbs that develop from the cuts grow only from that point on and are not an extension of the parent branch. Many times these new limbs are weakly attached to their parentlimb, with not more than an inch of wood.
5. Rapid New Growth. Instead of controlling the height and spread of the tree, topping actually encourages rapid new growth. Trees respond to the cuts by sprouting many long limbs resulting in a taller and bushier tree.
6. Death. Some tree species do not tolerate tree topping. They sprout only a few new limbs and therefore lack the leaves necessary to capture sunlight to produce glucose. Without this much needed nutrient, the tree simply dies.
7. Appearance. Plain and simple, a topped tree is ugly. Even with the new growth, the tree will never regain its original beauty. It will no longer be a valuable asset to the surrounding landscape.
8. Price. You need more than a ladder and a chain saw to properly prune a tree. Tree topping may be cheaper to accomplish, but the overall higher price will be reflected in the lowered property value, removal and replacement cost when the tree dies, declining health of nearby trees and shrubs reacting to the change in sunlight, liability risks from weak branches, and higher costs for future trimmings.
Want alternatives to Tree Topping? Check back for our next blog coming soon.