As an Arborist for over thirty years, I have seen a multitude of issues over that time. I am still surprised as I realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As techniques, equipment and science have continued to grow and evolve, some of the fundamental problems I see on client properties have remained the same.

Topping, heading or rounding trees over, was a prevalent practice when I entered the tree business in 1983. Pretty quickly, science and our industry began an all out assault on the detriments of this practice. To be clear, topping defined as, “ the practice of removing whole tops of trees and or large branches leaving stubs or lateral branches that are too small to assume the terminal role.” I have watched this practice lose popularity over the last twenty years. However, it is still carried out even by some local certified arborists. As our company and many other Certified Tree Expert professionals are called to do this practice, we painstakingly try to educate the public to the pitfalls and long term negative affects on their trees and the call for this practice has dwindled.

In the recent local ice storm back in March, as well as the wind shear in June of 2015, so many trees were brought down or severely damaged it was truly mind boggling . With the result often being the loss of property, many people began to view their trees as a threat to life and property. Subsequent to these storms , as you may imagine , the call for Arborist services was in high demand. Often times, people are looking for solutions to the risk that trees present to their homes. What I found astonishing was that the call for the outdated practice of topping made a roaring comeback. I felt as if we were taking a giant step backward! As a NJ Certified Tree Expert, and soon to be Licensed Tree Expert (as now required by law), I will continue to apply good science but rest assured some will try to capitalize .

In my experience in catastrophic or unpleasant scenarios, people can enter into an almost panic mode where they feel compelled to do something dramatic in an attempt to control their environment or situations. When emotions run high, oftentimes, a homeowner does not always make the most educated decision due to the fear factor. This is a catalyst for making bad decisions about trees and life. As I reflect on this process, I wondered for a split second, are people correct? Should we revert back and just make the trees shorter? The quick answer is NO! Absolutely not. If trees are maintained in a proper fashion and the long limbs which give wind, snow and ice leverage are properly pruned, the risk is reduced. Trees in the woods which grow natural and fail are not threatening your house and property and do not need to be maintained. In contrast, trees growing large on your property close to structures, wires or walkways would be best to receive regular proper pruning . The pruning should be done by an NJ Licensed Tree Expert and to the ANSI A 300 specs. It is done to specification to promote proper growth and wound closure.

In summary, let’s focus on a couple of things. One, when life throws storms at us, let us remember to try to stay calm and focus on making decisions in that state of mind rather than in a mode of panic. The results are typically much better. Number two, many bad people with a skewed moral compass are looking to take advantage of homeowners in an emotional or panicked state. Often times, they play on fear. Do your best to shop very carefully and remember just because someone has an ad, website, fancy equipment or even a certification does not mean they are ethical. Ethics are much more difficult to discover. Be certain you get strong referrals and do a little research on your own to discover the best practices in a given industry. Google in this case can be a fantastic tool!


3 thoughts on “Topping trees is still not the answer

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