Don’t Top Trees!

Never cut main branches back to stubs. The sight of topped trees is all too common in the communities and along the roadways of America—trunks with stubby limbs standing naked in the landscape, trees stripped of all dignity and grace. Trees are often topped because they grow into utility wires, interfere with views or solar collectors, or simply grow so large that they worry the landowner. But, as one arborist has said, “Topping is the absolute worst thing you can do for the health of your tree.”

Proper Pruning—-The Alternative to Topping

When a decision is made to reduce the size of an older tree, it can be topped, or it can be pruned properly. Although the speed and nature of re-growth will depend on species and local factors, any comparison between irresponsible topping and competent pruning will be dramatic.


•Year 1: The topped tree is an ugly stub and a remnant of a once lovely tree. If pruned properly, the size of the tree is reduced but form and beauty are retained.

•Year 3: Vigorous sprouts have sprung out of the topped tree in large numbers and are growing with abnormal rapidity. The pruned tree adds growth, but it does so more slowly and distributes it more normally.

•Year 6: In a relatively short time, the topped tree is as tall—-and far bushier and more dangerous—-than it was to begin with. The properly pruned tree is safer, more beautiful, and its size is better controlled.


This is taken from Tree City USA Bulletin No.8, “Don’t Top Trees!” For a free copy of the complete Bulletin, write to: The National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410.

The Waynedale News Staff
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