A stub is created when a branch is not pruned close to its parent branch. These open wounds leave the tree susceptible to diseases and parasites.
Lion tailing occurs when all or most of the laterally branches are removed from a parent branch or trunk. This removal forces the tree to increase foliage density at the terminal end of the branch to maintain its food-creating capacity. The increase of foliage increases the weight at the end of the branch and cause premature failure of the limb, especially during periods of high wind.
Topping is the indiscriminate culling and cutting of tree branches to short stubs. Other names include “heading”, “tipping”, “rounding-over” and “hat-racking”.
Often used to reduce the size and/or canopy of a tree, limit tree height and prevent risk of tree failure, topping is perceived to be a viable cheap solution to pruning a tree, however, it actually increases risks and costs in the long term.
Topping Creates Tree Stress
The natural structure of a healthy tree is a beautiful sight and a treasured delight. Topping trees removes the ends of branches often leaving ugly stubs, ultimately destroying the natural form for which it was intended. A tree that has been topped will never fully regain its natural form and causes major stress to the structure of the tree.
Leaves are tree food and removing them can trigger several survival responses. Dormant buds become activated, forcing rapid growth of multiple shoots below each cut. If the tree does not have an appropriate amount of stored energy to put out a new crop of leaves, it weakens and will likely die.
Everyone has had their fair share of sunburn and we all know how damaging excessive exposure to the sun is for our skin and well, it’s no different for trees! Topping results in the tree being highly susceptible to extreme temperatures and light as a result of the reduced canopy and leaves. Tissue sunburn in trees can lead to cankers, bark splitting, and death of branches.
Topping Creates Dangers
Topping triggers an unnaturally fast growth response in the tree. Unlike normal growth structure, these fast growing shoots are anchored in the outermost layers of the parent branches, making them weakly attached and prone to failure, especially during windy, icy or cold conditions.
These types of branches can be extremely dangerous as they break easily and create hanging limbs or falling branches. When you consider that these branches may be directly above your roof, car, or yard, you can see why we are highly opposed to this practice.
Additionally, exposed stubs can lead to decay as the organisms are given a free path to move down and into the branches causing infestation and future issues.
It Leads to Increased Maintenance Costs
Aside from the fact topping is unappealing to the eye and results in the tree looking unnaturally ugly, topping can also attract increased maintenance costs (if the tree survives!).
A topped tree requires corrective pruning within 1-2 years due to the rapid, wild and unruly growth that occurs immediately after topping. Once the damage of topping has been done, it can take many years of additional corrective pruning to restructure the branching of the tree.
Not only that, but the weakly attached branches can break easily, and create dangerous hanging or broken limbs that may require emergency pruning. To make matters worse, a topped tree is more susceptible to insects and disease. So if the tree doesn’t survive, you will be up for the cost of removal.
There are many reasons a trees canopy needs to be reduced, and we address these common concerns every day but topping is never the right solution. The most effective action you can take is to contact your local certified arborist and have them advise you on how to proceed with your pruning needs.
If you wish to take care of it yourself, we recommend that you research proper branch reduction techniques online to make sure you minimize the risk of topping your tree.
Don’t be fooled!
Often people think they are saving money by topping trees but it can turn out to be quite an expense. Disfigured, topped trees are considered an impending expense in terms of property value.
They also pose an unacceptable level of risk due to branch failure, which can result in negligence leading to legal issues. As always, when in doubt contact your local certified arborist.
Be smart and take care of your trees. They are a natural and beautiful wonder and deserve to be treated as such.