Brockley Tree Services


How Does Tree Topping Hurt Trees?

Brockley Tree Services

When a tree gets too tall, a homeowner’s first instinct may be to have a local tree service lop a bit off the top. Most people refer to it as tree topping, though the job goes by a few names: heading, tipping, hat-racking, rounding over, etc.

Whatever you might call it, more often than not, we call it a bad idea. Topping can hurt your tree in many different ways, even going so far as killing the tree. So why do so many people turn to it as a solution?

What Is Tree Topping? 

Topping is the cutting of large tree branches or the lateral branches that aren’t large enough to assume a “terminal” role, reducing them to stubs. The most common reason for topping is reducing the size and height of a tree – homeowners often see tall trees as too large for their property and fear that the branches will pose a hazard to life and property. 

Other reasons include:

  • Removing growth that could interfere with infrastructure like electrical and phone wires
  • Shortening the trees that grow near a home
  • Preventing a tall tree from coming down in a wind storm

We should be very clear: topping is not a viable method of height reduction and does not reduce the hazards of a tall tree. Topping will only make a tree more hazardous in the long term!


How Tree Topping Hurts Trees

Topping can be a costly mistake. By leaving the tree with weak lateral branches and stubs, you are stripping away much of the tree’s source of food, as the remaining branches are too small to adequately produce and deliver food through the entire tree. It can also harm the tree in three other ways: 

  1. The tree has to grow new limbs quickly, leaving them too weak to handle high winds and precipitation
  2. The shortened limbs and stubs give decay, insects and disease access to vulnerable parts of the tree
  3. The new growth will return to the original height of the tree, restarting an unsafe cycle of topping

So what can you do instead? Expert crown reduction and canopy thinning will solve all your problems without creating these new ones!


What Alternatives To Tree Topping Are There?tree ownership tree pruning backyard image brockley tree service

Despite most arborists’ aversion to topping, trees can get too large for their good. Rather than topping the tree, a skilled arborist can help you reduce the size in a way that maintains the structural integrity and aesthetics without damaging the tree. Thinning and crown reduction can decrease the wind resistance of the upper parts of the tree, allowing wind to pass through and reducing the potential for breakage. A good thinning will also allow more light penetration and air circulation throughout the canopy, improving the tree’s overall health.

If you think the canopy of your tree is getting too thick or too tall, don’t seek out a company willing to do an indiscriminate tree topping job – call a Brockley Tree arborist! They’ll assess the situation and develop a thinning strategy that takes your property and the tree’s health into consideration.