According to the International Society of Arboriculture, topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches used to reduce the size of a tree.  Topping is the most harmful tree practice known and is not a viable method of height reduction.  It does not decrease future risk and in fact, may increase it.


Various problems are caused by tree topping.  There are no benefits to topping and it is a myth that reducing the height of a tree will decrease the chance a tree will topple in a storm.


These topped trees have begun shooting out new, but weak, growth in an attempt to grow leaves as fast as possible.

Topping removes between 50-100% of a tree’s leaf-bearing crown, much more than the recommended amount.  Because leaves are the food source for a tree, removing them starves the tree and triggers survival mode.  As a result, dormant buds are activated forcing the rapid growth of multiple shoots as the tree attempts to put out a new crop of leaves as soon as possible.  If the tree does not have enough stored energy reserves, it will be seriously weakened and die.


When a tree is properly pruned, it is biologically equipped to close the wound.  When a tree is topped, the cuts are not only made at the wrong place, but there are too many of them so that the tree is not able to close the wounds and the exposed wood tissue begins to decay.  Instead of the normal compartmentalization process that occurs when a tree is trimmed, the tree is unable to defend itself against the cuts.


The leaves on a tree absorb sunlight and when the leaves are removed, the tree is exposed to higher than normal levels of light and heat.  This may result in actual sunburn of the tissues beneath the bark which can lead to cankers, bark splitting, and death of the branches and limbs.


A topped tree is an ugly tree.  Topping removes the ends of branches leaving ugly stumps and the result is a disfigured tree.  When a tree is properly pruned, the beauty and shape of the tree are maintained.

These trees have been topped.


Topping is a short-term solution with serious long-term consequences. When a tree is topped, any new growth is weakly attached and can actually create more of a hazard.  If a tree survives topping, it will likely require corrective pruning within a few years.  If the tree dies from topping, it will need to be removed.  Topped trees also decrease the property value and can increase liability.  Because topping is considered an unacceptable pruning practice, if damage is caused by a topped tree, you may be held liable.


Topping is not good for trees, period.  Because topping is done to reduce the size of the tree, alternatives to topping including pruning such as a crown raising, cleaning, or reduction.  Cabling, a support system involving the installation of flexible steel strands to reduce stress on a tree, may also be recommended.  When it comes to tree trimming, it is important to hire a Certified Arborist.  A Certified Arborist is trained in proper pruning practices, including where to cut and how much to cut and can reduce a tree’s height while maintaining its aesthetics.

Jake, a Tulsa Certified Arborist, did a fantastic job trimming up this gorgeous tree over a house while maintaining the health and beauty of the tree.


A professional tree service will never top a tree.  It is important to hire a tree service with a Certified Arborist to ensure the health of your trees.  Contact Jake, a Tulsa Certified Arborist, at TREES BY JAKE by calling or texting 918-500-9955 for a free estimate.  He has been providing tree care in Tulsa for over a decade and has worked on thousands of trees.

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