Topping is probably the most harmful tree pruning practice there is. However, despite more than 25 years of explaining its harmful effects, topping remains an all to common practice.
“Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include “heading,” “tipping,” “hat-racking,” and “rounding over.”
The most common reason that people give for topping their trees is that they are trying to reduce the size of the tree. However, even though topping my temporary recuse the size, the the long run it creates a much larger and more hazardous tree than was there before. When a tree is topped, often times more than fifty percent and i many cases one-hundred percent of the trees foliage is removed. Since the foliage is the evergy factory of a tree, when it is all cut off the tree goes into shock.
As a result of the shock the tree is going to do whatever it takes to keep alive and will use it stored energy to react and push out new foliage as soon as possible. When the new folliage appears it is most often in the form of many water sprouts right below where the topping cut was made. Since the tree needs leaves fast to produce energy, these water sprouts are skinny and grow very fast, without any good attachement to to tree.
When this happens, the tree becomes much less aesthetically pleasing, and because of the amount of those water sprouts and their poor attachment to the tree, they have a high likelihood of breaking out and hurting someone, or causing property damage. In the case where the tree doesn’t have adequate reserves stored, the tree isn’t able to survive the shock and the tree will the die and have to be removed.
Lastly, topping offers a great opportunity to attack the tree, or for the tree to become very susceptible to decay. When the tree is already in shock from the topping, and has many large open wounds, it is doing everything it can just to stay alive. If bugs move in, or decay starts to take place the tree will have to energy to fight of such things
Remember, DO NOT top trees. If they are to large for your liking contact a certified arborist and see what they can do for you.