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Tree Topping

Although tree topping occurs widely throughout Missouri and the Midwest, it is considered an expensive, mutilating, and obsolete practice for tree maintenance. Take a look at some of the common tree topping myths and why the tree care professionals at Omni Tree Service do not adhere to this tree maintenance practice.


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What is Tree Topping?

Tree topping, as defined by The Missouri Community Forestry Council, is the drastic removal, or cutting back, of large branches in mature trees which leave large, open wounds which can become subject to disease and decay. You might be familiar with the concept but might not know it had a name.

Tree topping is so common that there is a good chance you have seen a tree that has been topped without even knowing it. Tree topping is also referred to as stubbing, heading, heading-back, hat-racking, stubbing-off, dehorning, lopping, and roundover. No matter the name, tree topping is not recommended for any tree at any time.

Why do tree companies practice tree topping? They might be ill-informed or not licensed – a one-man shop with a chainsaw certainly doesn’t have the expertise or skill of a certified arborist. While tree maintenance such as tree pruning includes selectively cutting branches for the health and aesthetic of the tree, tree topping does not take into consideration the healthy growth the tree already has developed. Tree topping is damaging and the myths surrounding it perpetuates the idea that it is a good practice.

Common Tree Topping Myths

Myth 1: Tree topping is done to reduce storm damage and make tree maintenance easier.

Fact: Tree topping makes tree branches regain their original growth in two years, but because the limbs grow fast in a short amount of time, they are extremely fragile and easily damage in storms. Rather than making maintenance easier, tree topping does the opposite. If a tree is selectively pruned, the maintenance takes less time as compared to a tree that has been topped, which will require more attention.

Myth 2: Tree topping invigorates a tree.

Fact: Rather than give a tree new life, tree topping injures a tree and can permanently damage it. Tree topping exposes the tree to disease, decay, and insects which may ultimately lead to a dead tree.

Not only does tree topping open your tree up to disease and decay, but it starves it of nutrients. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, topping often removes 50-100% of the leaf-bearing crown. Topping weakens the root system because the loss of healthy foliage – the food source for the tree – is removed, compromising the tree’s structure as a whole. All in all, tree topping shortens the tree’s lifespan.

Myth 3: Topped trees add value to your property.

Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth! A tree that’s been topped lacks the natural beauty which tree pruning enhances. So not only is your tree now a large hazard because the structure is weakened, but it can become an eyesore among its neighbors.

If a tree company comes to you offering tree topping services, you should approach with caution. Not only does tree topping kill off trees, but it weakens them and ruins their natural beauty.

At Omni Tree Service, we offer standard tree maintenance and many better options for tree care compared to tree topping, such as selective pruning. We are a licensed and insured tree care company that has been serving the St. Louis area for over 20 years. Contact us today to learn how we can help maintain your trees and keep them looking great year-round!

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