As we drive around the Phoenix area, we frequently see trees that have been badly disfigured by a practice known as “topping.” Topping involves removing large portions of the trees primary branches or trunk, or trimming the tree back the way you might prune a rose bush. This is typically done to reduce the size of a tree. We strongly recommend against it. Our certifying body, the International Society of Arboriculture has been warning against topping for years.
Here are five reasons why you should never top your tree.
- It’s bad for tree health. Removing the top portion of a tree is very bad for the tree’s health, and it may actually kill the tree. If the tree lives, it will have to survive an enormous amount of stress and is now more susceptible to disease, decay and even sunburn.
- It makes trees less attractive. The most beautiful trees are those that are pruned to maintain a natural, graceful structure. Topped trees, on the other hand, are a collection of ugly stumps and poorly attached shoots. When the leaves are on the damaged tree, they hide the stumps, but grow in a dense cluster like a bush.
- It makes trees more dangerous. New shoots quickly form just below the place where the main trunk has been severed. These shoots can grow to be quite enormous in a relatively short time, but they lack strong attachments, and are much, much, much more prone to breakage than branches of a tree with healthy branch structure.
- It’s bad for your property value. Rather than seeing the topped tree as an asset to a property that increases curb appeal, potential home buyers are likely to see topped, disfigured trees as flaws with the property that will have to be dealt with.
- It can’t fixed. Once topped, a tree will never recover its natural, graceful structure. It will always be a stumpy thing with spindly shoots popping out all over it.
If you would like to decrease the vertical growth or horizontal spread of your tree, there are many options available to you without a need for topping. Please talk to a certified arborist about your options.
More information: ISA’s “Why Topping Hurts Trees” brochure