Tree Topping

I am not sure why tree topping continues as an acceptable practice after all of the evidence presented as it being severely detrimental to the growth and safety of trees.   A simple google search of the topic yields plenty of results arguing against the topping of trees.  Yet here I am, looking out my window at the hawthorn in my front yard that has been topped.  My best guess says the tree was topped about 5-10 years ago.  The tree seems to be doing OK, but I imagine it would be much more beautiful and happy if it weren’t topped.  You can see the crown has completely lost its shape and now only has upright shoots.   Hawthorn trees seem to be a popular tree to top here in Bend as I have seen many in the downtown area in similar shape.  I think it may be due to it’s unfriendly thorns.

The hawthorn is not the only tree at my house that has been topped.  The sugar maple on the side of my house has also been stripped of its dignity.  The maple tree is a good example of why it is such a risk to top trees.  At the beginning of October we had that unexpected snow storm dump a few inches of heavy snow on Bend.  Many of the deciduous trees in my neighborhood had severe damage.  The tree with the most damaged was the sugar maple at my house.  The branches that were lost fell directly onto the power lines leading into my house. My landlord ended up removing some of the branches while we lost power for a couple hours that morning.  This could have been an extremely dangerous situation if the power had come back on while he worked on the branches.

The whole situation could have been avoided had the tree not been topped.  Topping forces the tree to produce epicormic shoots which are weakly attached to the trunk and more likely to fail in bad weather .  There is also a huge risk of decay and disease forming in the cut branches, which leads to further risk of limb loss.  The life of the tree has been completely compromised.  The tree has probably returned to its original pre-topped height and will have to eventually be removed before it becomes a bigger hazard than it already is.  It is a sad story as the tree provides a lot of summer shade on the West side of our house.

There has been a lot of talk in the arboriculture community about making the practice of topping illegal.  Do you all think this is a good idea?  I 100% think this should be a law in every state.  It’s just the same has having safety standards for buildings in my opinion.  Topped trees pose a risk to people and property and it is not fair to put compromise the safety of the community.

For more information on topping, check out the following links.  The first link is to the TLC for Trees website of a video where they do a dissection of a topped limb that has been severely decayed.  You can really see how loosely attached the branches really are.

TLC for Trees – Topping Hurts!

Trees are Good – Why Topping Hurts

Forest Facts – Tree topping (Oregon Department of Forestry printable PDF)

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