Arborists, Tree Care, Urban Forestry

Don’t Top Those Trees

dont top those trees nm

Don’t Top Those Trees!

Have you seen them?  Trees with all their branches and leaders whacked back to some ill-determined length, leaving big cut surface wounds.  They’re all over town.  Well, what’s the deal here – is topping a legitimate pruning method or not?  Should arborists top trees?

Generally, the answer is “not”.  Topping causes trees to lose a lot of investment in previous growth, and also reduces leaf area, making it very stressful for the tree to grow normally.  The tree also has to spend a lot of energy trying to seal up the many wounds, most of which will have been made in a way that will be impossible for the tree to successfully seal and protect.  

Sometimes folks are impressed with the new growth that comes from making topping cuts.  It can look impressive, all those new green branches.  Every one of those is growing, though, because the tree is trying to make up for what it lost.  It’s productive like having to get a second job because you had a financial crisis – you’re being extra productive but only to get back to where you were!  To add insult to injury, those large cuts are likely to allow decay fungi access to the inner wood.  This means the stem gets weaker as the new branches get heavier – a recipe for branch failure.

So, no – arborists should not top trees.  Tree cutters top trees…it doesn’t take much knowledge and training to be a tree cutter.  Hire arborists, your trees will thank you!

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