To Top or Not to Top, That is the Question!
For the past 25 years, there has been an abundance of evidence and literature to say that topping a tree is not a good practice. Even though it has been proven detrimental to trees, it is still done today as common practice.
Topping a tree includes indiscriminately cutting off tree limbs to stubs or cutting to lateral branches. You can see here the stumps that have been cut at the top of each branch.
Many homeowners feel that topping a tree reduces the size of the tree, thus reducing potential risk. But in fact, it increases the risk in the long term.
Topping removes 50-100% of a tree's crown, which bares leaves. This starves a tree and triggers a survival mechanism. The tree will send out shoots to create a new crop of leaves. If energy is not available to do this, it will be weekended and potentially die.
This stress causes the tree to be vulnerable to disease and insects.
Topping can also lead to a tree getting sunburned. The leaf crown protects the tree bark from sunlight. If the crown is topped off, the trunk is exposed to more sunlight. This causes cankers, bark splitting, and death of some branches.
If cuts are indiscriminate, it creates wounds that the tree may not be able to heal. This gives decay organisms a free path to move throughout the branches.
Topping a tree does cause quick growth of new shoots. Yet, these shoots are not firmly attached and may break off easily in wind or weather. The risk of limb failure has now increased greatly.
Lastly, topped trees are not attracted naturally. They appear disfigured and a topped tree will never again regain its natural beauty. You decide!