and Community Forestry Program
Tree Topping: What
It Is, Why It's Bad And How To Prevent It
WHAT IT IS
topping is expensive, mutilating and obsolete. Yet it still occurs widely throughout the Midwest.
WHY IT'S BAD
lack of public understanding about proper tree care are two major reasons
why people pay to have their trees destroyed each year.
is Tree Topping?
topping is the drastic removal, or cutting back, of large branches in
mature trees, leaving large, open wounds which subject the tree to disease
and decay. Topping causes immediate injury to the tree and ultimately
results in early failure or death of the tree.
for this malpractice include stubbing, heading, heading-back, stubbing-off,
tipping hatracking, topping off, dehorning, lopping, or roundover.
topping - by any name - is the worst thing to do to the health of a tree.
Topping vs. Tree Pruning: No Contest
topping should never be confused with proper pruning. A topped tree is easy
to spot - the tree's natural shape has been destroyed, while a properly
pruned tree often looks as if no work has been done at all. With proper
pruning, an arborist will spend time carefully selecting and removing branches.
Careful selective pruning retains the tree's natural shape and beauty.
Proper pruning is an important part of caring for - and protecting - the
health of your trees. In fact, many tree care professionals recommend that
homeowners start early and continue proper pruning throughout the life of
1: The topped tree (left) is an ugly stub. The
pruned tree's (right) size was reduced, but
its form and beauty retained.
3: Fast growing sprouts have sprung from the topped tree (left)
in large numbers. The pruned tree (right) adds
growth more slowly and naturally.
6: The topped tree (left) is taller and bushier
than ever. The properly pruned tree (right)
is safer, more beautiful and its size is better contolled.
top trees for many reasons, all of them connected to falsehoods and misconceptions.
a tree will reduce storm damage and make the tree easier to maintain.
trees can regain their original height in as fast as 2 years. The fast
growing, extremely long and loosely attached shoots caused by topping
may be more susceptible to breakage and storm damage. Ultimately, a topped
tree requires more attention in the future than a properly pruned tree.
Myth: Topping invigorates a tree.
immediately injures a tree and starts it on a downward spiral. Topping
wounds expose a tree to decay and invasion from insects and disease. Also,
the loss of foliage starves the tree, which weakens the roots, reducing
the tree's structural strength. While a tree may survive topping, its
life span will be significantly reduced.
trees will add value to your property.
trees lack natural beauty and may reduce your property values. Also, a
topped tree can become hazardous and cause property damage, making it
How to Prevent It
a homeowner, you must educate yourself and make wise choices to protect
your home and property - including your trees. A tree is a valuable asset.
As a long-term investment, trees require careful decisions and the occasional
advice and service of a professional. Here's what you can do to protect
Hire only competent, insured and certified tree care professionals.
a tree service, check the company's topping policy. If they say top, don't
let them near your trees.
if the individual or company carries professional certification, particularly
through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). The ISA conducts
extensive course and certifies those that pass an industry-based exam.
never let yourself be pressured by bargains. The old saying, "you
get what you pay for" truly applies here.
Ounce of Prevention: Right Tree, Right Place
species of tree has different height, width and spacing needs in order
to grown into a healthy mature tree. Carefully matching your tree selection
with site conditions - proximity to other trees, buildings or above ground
utilities - can prevent problems before they occur and will eliminate
the need to take harmful, drastic measures. Many utility companies and
forestry agencies provide guidelines for planting trees and recommendations
of tree species to fit your needs. Trees are a long-term investment. You
have the ability - and the responsibility - to prevent future problems
by applying the practice of "the right tree in the right place."
more information about caring for your trees, and brochures that explain
in greater detail about proper tree pruning and tree selection, contact
the organizations below.
Arbor Day Foundation can provide information about tree planting and proper
Nebraska City, NE 68410
Society of Arboriculture (ISA) can provide information about professional
certification and standards: