May 27, 2014
Many tree owners believe that topping the tree controls its size and makes the tree more manageable and safer. The ill-advised practice of tree topping has risen to crisis proportions.
Topping of trees only temporarily controls tree size. The trees genetics kick in and the topped tree will rapidly attempt to replace missing leaf area and resume its previous size. Although the tree may not reach that size in a growing season, every time it is cut back, it will spurt out again. The exception to this rule is where the tree’s health is damaged from severe pruning. The damaged tree is, in effect, dying and will continue on a downward spiral for years.
Topping of trees is expensive and must be repeated every few years. Each time a branch is cut, a surge of long, skinny shoots grows in replacement, making the perpetual pruning cycle exponentially more difficult. Ultimately, the tree may have to be removed if it is too large for the space in which it is planted.
A fully amputated or topped tree is not pleasing to the eye. The natural beauty of the tree’s crown is a function of the uninterrupted taper from the trunk to the even finer and more delicate branches. Topping destroys this silhouette.
How does ‘topping’ effect my tree?
Topping trees disfigures them and gives them an unnatural look and it is one of the most serious injuries to be inflicted upon a tree. Tree topping creates hazards in four major ways:
- It opens the tree to rot and disease
- It reduces the tree’s food source, prompting possible starvation
- It encourages weak limbs
- It causes thick regrowth which can more easily catch wind
More practical and reliable pruning techniques exist and are encouraged.
Is it ok to prune my tree way back?
Remember that each tree has a genetic code. The tree’s reaction to over-pruning will be to fill back out to replace the lost growth. The alternative is to prune the tree while maintaining its form. Careful, managed pruning promotes evenly distributed growth that is strongly attached to the tree.
What are the advantages of proper pruning?
- It improves the health of the trees by removing dead, diseased and/or dying branches and encourages a good branch structure
- It reduces hazards such as falling limbs or low hanging branches
- It limits the number of limbs with weak crotches that emerge from the trunk at acute angles
- It limits the number of crisscrossing limbs or competing limbs within the crown
- It limits the spread and infection of disease and insects
- It reduces wind shear and excess weight on the limbs
- It forces growth in the remaining, desired limbs
- It generally increases the trees lifespan with less limb loss
- It is typically less expensive than topping or shaping
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