Is your tree getting too tall or threatening your property, but you aren’t ready to part with the tree? Thinking is jsut cutting it down a notch? Well the first thing you should know, is tree topping is typically highly unadvisable. We know it surprises a lot of people to hear the age old and common practice of simply shortening your tree decapitation style, is actually an outdated, and rarely suitable solution.
WHY TREE TOPPING MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT FOR YOU
Every tree species responds to being topped differently. Though, when people talk about tree topping they’re typically referring to conifers (spruce or pine).
How spruce react to being “topped” is particularly interesting.
Once the current trunk or “lead” is removed, hormonal signals are sent to the next rung of branches telling them a new lead is needed. Since a forest tree typically has to continue growing tall or risk being shaded and starved, the next in line branches head the call by curling upwards and actually developing into new lead trunks. Although beneficial for a forest tree staking claim to its small patch of sunshine; this hydra effect can be highly undesirable for urban tree owners. Steadily growing heavier at the base of the former trunk wound (which will never heal) these second generation trunks are prone to splitting off in heavy wind or snow.
In summary: As a last resort (a spruce beginning to encroach on utility lines for example), a spruce can be topped, but you’ll be left with a fairly high maintenance tree, since the new leads will have to be pruned off every 3-5 years to prevent the tree from becoming dangerous.
Leafy trees all react in a similar way to being topped. Also called pollarding; topping deciduous trees is a practice that was put out of fashion shortly after the science of tree pruning really took off.
Not only does topping a tree potentially shorten its life by creating wounds that can’t heal, it also permanently destroys the trees natural growth habit, and causes an explosion of stress growth (water sprouts) that grow 4X faster than regular wood. This results in an unruly and unmanageable tree.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
In most cases, there’s a better pruning alternative to topping. Our arborists can make tailored recommendations based on your trees specific situation.