Tree topping is the “Practice of removing whole tops of trees or large branches or trunks from the tops of tress, leaving stubs or lateral branches that are too small to assume the role of terminal leader. Other names for topping include “heading,” “tipping,” “hat-racking” and “rounding over.”

Topping is often used to reduce the size of a tree. A homeowner may feel that the tree has become too large for his or her property, or that tall trees may pose an unacceptable risk. Topping, however, is not a viable method of reduction and certainly does not reduce future risk. In fact, topping will increase risk in the long term.

Topping temporarily starves a tree and kicks into gear its survival instincts. It forces rapid growth that is visible to multiple shoots below each cut. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the old branches. Unlike normal branches that develop in a socket of overlapping wood tissues, these new shoots are anchored only in the outermost layers of the parent branches and are weakly attached.

Trees with open wounds are much more vulnerable to disease and insect invasion. With the weakened energy and vulnerable state of the tree, it may not be able to defend against these attacks.

Topping will actually cost you more money than pruning properly!

–          Increased maintenance cost. If the tree survives, it will require corrective pruning within a few years. If the tree dies, it will need to be removed.

–          Increased liability potential. Weakened topped trees may pose an unacceptable level of risk. Because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, any damage caused by branch failure of a topped tree may lead to finding of negligence in a court of law.

–         Reduced property value. Healthy, well-maintained trees can add 10-20 percent to the value of the property.

There are alternatives to topping that can help to achieve the same goals without damaging trees. We highly recommended that you hire a certified arborist to properly assess and prune your trees to achieve the desired effect without potential harm to the tree and your wallet.

© Why Topping Hurts Trees- International Society of Arboriculture