Topless trees are indecent
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CHAMPAIGN -- Trees
must be pruned sometimes to avoid interference with utility lines,
buildings or parts of the surrounding environment. Whenever pruning
to reduce a tree's size is required, avoid the harmful practice of
Topping involves removing all parts of a tree above a certain
height, with no consideration for its structure or health. This
method is not a viable method of height reduction, but only a
temporary and ineffective solution that actually makes a tree more
hazardous in the long run.
The International Society of Arboriculture explains why topping
is not an acceptable pruning technique. "Topping is probably the
most damaging and detrimental thing a person can do to a tree," says
Sharon Lilly, director of education for the society. "Topped trees
are ugly, and the harmful effects usually endure for the life of the
The destructive effects of topping include the following:
-- Topping often removes 50 percent to 100 percent of the
leaf-bearing crown, robbing the tree of food-creating leaves.
Creation of weak
shoots -- As a defense mechanism, a tree will quickly grow
food-producing shoots, up to 20 feet in one year, that are weak
and prone to breaking, resulting in a more hazardous tree.
Added stress for
the tree -- If a tree does not have enough stored energy, it
will not be able to produce the chemicals required to defend the
multiple wounds from a disease or insect attack.
"Sunburned" trees -- The leaves within a tree's crown
absorb sunlight. Without this protection, branches and trunks
are exposed to high levels of light and heat, which can burn the
tissues beneath the bark.
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-- Topping removes the ends of branches, often leaving unsightly
stubs and destroying the natural form of the tree. A tree that
has been topped can never fully regain its natural form.
-- Trees that have been topped will need pruning more
often, or they may die and need to be removed. Topped trees are
potential liabilities and can reduce property value.
To help avoid these harmful side effects, the International
Society of Arboriculture advises that trees should be pruned
according to the American National Standards Institute's pruning
standards. An ISA-certified arborist should quote approved ANSI
pruning methods to customers. Beware of a tree service that offers
to top your tree; they may not be up-to-date on the latest pruning
The International Society of Arboriculture, headquartered in
Champaign, is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research
and education around the world. As part of the society's dedication
to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees, it
offers the only internationally recognized certification program in
the industry. For more information and to find a local ISA-certified
[International Society of
Arboriculture news release]