Trees are both a natural part of our environment, and an everyday sight in our towns and cities, lining streets, or even providing shade for our own homes. They provide a vital role in the ecosystem, making food available to wildlife in the form of fruits, and leaves, while at the same time creating the oxygen that we need in order to breathe.
But some people have taken to the practice of “topping,” the technique of hacking of branches from trees in order to force the trees to remain at a particular height. It’s similar to the way bushes are trimmed to maintain a uniform height, but on a much more severe scale. And while in some areas, it’s becoming popular, it’s actually a not very effective technique. Why? Read on.
Topping a tree is not a permanent process. In fact, what topping a tree does is accelerate the growth process, as the tree now struggles to replace all the branches and leaves that have been cut away. The only way to permanently prevent a tree from growing is to keep it in a state of near-death, where it is unable to grow at all. Cutting off every major branch and leaving the trunk intact simply invites more intense tree growth.
A tree with sprawling branches, and green leaves waving in the wind is a beautiful sight. A tree with all of its branches cut off, and no leaves in sight has the exact opposite effect. Topping effectively destroys the natural beauty—and even curb appeal—of trees, and tends to make a property look worse, not better.
Topping a tree or trees, is something that will need to be done repeatedly, and eventually lead to unnatural looking trees. Because of the accelerated growth rate, as a tree tries to repair the damage from topping, it will attempt to grow branches from cut areas which will be smaller and more numerous than the branches that would have naturally grown. More branches means more work, and more money wasted taking care of the problem.
One of the biggest issues with topping, aside from needless damage, and ugly looking trees is it puts the property owner at legal risk. A topped tree is structurally unsound, due to the replacement branches being weaker, and the tree as whole being in a state of impaired health.
This means that the tree is far more likely to present an environmental hazard that renders the property owner open to premises liability. If branches from the tree fall off and hit pedestrians, or damage parked cars, that’s not an “act of God,” that is a direct result of the owner’s choice to top the tree. In other words, if the state of tree’s poor health is the direct result of the property owner, any harm that tree causes may put the property owner in financial responsibility for compensation.
Topping trees is neither attractive, nor effective. It’s a practice that is not recommended.