‘Tree Topping’ can now, officially, be added to the list of stuff-we-ignore-until-we-are-done-for. You’d think, after more than 25 years of literature & seminars extolling the harmful effects of tree topping, it would be abolished already. But, we’re the same civilization that used to think lead was ok, as well as, asbestos, and even more recently, climate change. Come on, we’re kidding ourselves if we think removing 50%-100% of the leaf-bearing crown is not going to stress our trees out as frak! Yeah, indiscriminately lopping off the heads of trees might briefly get your view back, but it will not reduce any hazards; it actually creates lots more of them!
Removing leaves, the food factories of a tree, will result in the tree starving, which is messed up. The severity of a topping and resulting nutrient deprivation, trigger a survival mechanism. Because the tree will need to put out a new crop of leaves as soon as possible, it activates latent buds, forcing a rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut. If a tree does not have the stored energy reserves to do this, it will be seriously weakened or die.
And don’t forget a stressed tree is more vulnerable to insect and disease infestations. Large, open topping wounds expose sapwood and heartwood to attacks. And, a topped tree may lack sufficient energy to chemically defend its wounds against invasion; some insects are actually attracted to the chemical signals trees release.
Besides making trees susceptible to decay, sunburn, & nasty ugliness, tree topping creates hazards. The new, rapidly-growing shoots developing from buds near the surface of the topped branches, unlike normal branches that develop in a socket of overlapping wood tissues, are anchored only in the outermost layers of the parent branches. The new shoots grow quickly, as much as 20 feet in one year, in some species. Unfortunately, the shoots are prone to breaking, especially during windy conditions. The irony is that while the goal may have been to reduce the tree’s height to make it safer, it has been made more hazardous than before.
And then there are the financial costs. The price of topping a tree is not limited to what you initially pay a tree service. If the tree survives, it will require pruning again, only within a few years. It will either need to be reduced once again or storm damage will have to be cleaned up. And if the tree dies, it will have to be removed. Another hidden cost is a reduction in property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10 to 20 percent to the value of a property. Disfigured, topped trees are eye-sores and considered an impending expense. And then there is all the potential liability. Topped trees are prone to breaking and can be hazardous. Because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to a finding of negligence in a court of law. So watch your arse!
For the do-it-yourself-generation, pruning large trees can be dangerous. If pruning involves working above the ground or using power equipment, it is best to hire a professional arborist. Don’t be a yahoo with a chainsaw! Sonoma-Marin Arborists Inc can determine the type of pruning that is necessary to improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees. We can provide the services of a trained crew, with all of the required safety equipment and liability insurance. Stop watching how-to-top-your-own-tree videos on You Tube and stay out of court and/or the power lines! Call us now!