Dangers of Topping a Tree
Unprofessional tree maintenance crews sometimes head back mature trees. Many times you will see this done as a solution to branch breakage after a severe wind or ice storm. Heading back a mature tree is called tree topping, stubbing, or dehorning. But it is not a pruning technique; it is "tree butchery." Whether it be sawing-off large branches or heading back an entire mature tree, tree topping is an unsatisfactory way to prune a tree. Where large branches or mature trees are stubbed, a number of shoots develop at the end of each stub. These stubs crowd each other and are weakly attached to the stem; consequently, they split out easily. Worst of all, trees that are stubbed or topped in this way lose their natural form and often are ugly and grotesque, slowly dying because the dieback of the stubs invites decay. The tree then becomes not only unhealthy and ugly but also dangerous. Tree topping is never a solution where strength is needed; it encourages weakness where vigor is needed. It encourages disease. Donít accept topping as an acceptable pruning technique. To learn about proper ways to prune, call the Extension Office.