Please Don’t Top Trees! by Molly Rice

I would like to first state clearly: It is not my intention to offend any individual with this article. My intent is to educate and inform Joe Homeowner & Martha General Public. It is also my intent to be an advocate for all trees; but specifically our community’s trees. To be “A voice for the trees”, I would also like to state clearly I am a Certified Arborist (PN 2004) with a focus on consultations and education, although I do have a number of years hands on experience working with trees. I tend to look at and understand trees in a completely different way then most folks.

There is already a tremendous amount of information and written literature on the particular subject of why not to “TOP TREES”. The International Society of Arboriculture has spent the last 25 + years putting this message out and educating and Certifying Arborists and Tree Workers in different capacities across the world. I am not out to impress anyone with unrecognizable industry terms, and so will convey my message in a way that anyone can understand it. I would also invite anyone to go on line and check out ISA’s or the National Arbor Day Foundations’ websites to see this information first hand.

It is a given and well known fact that trees are vital to our world’s survival. Trees produce oxygen which all humans require to live; trees cleanse and purify the air we breathe. There is a growing concern for the de-foresting of many third world countries. Yet every year Joe Homeowner and Martha General Public continue to “top” trees in their very own back yards. The continued practice of “topping trees”, which is also known as; “heading cuts”,”hat-racking”, and “rounding over”, is only a death sentence for trees. I have had many conversations with fellow Arborists who remark the owner of the tree wants the tree topped. WHY?

Most likely it is simply because they are misinformed and uneducated regarding trees, it would sincerely be a sad day to think they were killing their tree on purpose, and yet sadly the practice continues.

Trees have a unique biology that naturally allows them to ‘seal off’ sections, or compartmentalize themselves in order to survive; in most cases. Trees unique biology also requires leaves for their survival. With the practice of “topping” both these biological tree facts are disrupted which in turn weakens and stresses the tree. Most home owners think when trees become large they pose a threat or hazard. The practice of topping however; is not an appropriate answer to the concern of height reduction, and in fact will create a hazard tree out of a once healthy tree. Topping trees is the most Harmful pruning practice known.

Pruning can be one of the most beneficial, or one of the most detrimental maintenance practices for a tree. There is a time and place for pruning and if done in the proper manner can lengthen a tree’s life.

I will repeat topping is an ultimate death sentence to a tree. The unhealthy practice of topping trees is showing it’s affects in our community. The majority of trees in Schmuck Park are considered hazardous and slated for removal. Every year you can drive through area towns and see trees that have been topped.

What happens to a tree when it is topped? Topping usually removes anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of leaf cover. Remember leaves are required for a trees survival. If the tree has the stored energy reserves to produce a new crop of leaves, it activates this process. If topping occurs in the summer months, the trees puts all its efforts into producing leaves, moving into fall and winter dormant seasons does not allow the tree enough time to recover and refuel its own energy reserves, weakening it, creating stress, moving it into decline. A weak and stressed tree sends out signals which nature hears, sending in bugs to further the decline process. A tree in it’s natural healthy state may be able to ‘seal off’ one or two wounds, but the large number of wounds that are inflicted upon a tree with the practice of topping creates undue stress on the tree, which has already activated it’s efforts to new leaf production, remember, it also has to produce new branches and twigs for the leaves to grow on as well. With these large open wounds the sapwood and heart wood is open and exposed to disease and insect infestation. Trees natural ability to seal off wounds of this size and number is greatly affected and in most cases the tree begins rotting from the top down.

I will repeat topping is an ultimate death sentence to a tree.Granted it is not always the next year, but it begins the decline and death process, and turns a possibly healthy tree into a tree that is full of hazards.

Topping also leads to sun burn of the tissues under the bark with the removal of the leaves and upper branches, in turn creating cankers, splitting bark and the ultimate death of branches.

Remember I mentioned the trees natural biology to spring into action and grow new leaves, well in that process; new branches and twigs are also grown, but are weakly attached at the wound site. Weakly or poorly attached branches are hazardous; these are the branches that most likely will fall during any strong wind.

So here goes the story; Joe Homeowner thinks his trees are getting to big, or is told by a tree service company his tree is to big and needs to be topped. So the tree is butchered, opening it to all disease and infection as well as insect infestation. The tree attempts to survive, grows weakly attached branches, which break off at the next strong wind, and Joe Homeowner breathes a sigh and says wow, so glad we had it topped, think what would have happened if the whole tree blew over.

Humans need trees for our survival. Trees in a community offer so much for us. When trees are in an urban setting, or are planted and maintained by humans they become the urban forest and become our responsibility. There is a correct and proper way to plant, prune and care for trees. Please educate yourself on tree biology if you intend to work with trees. Homeowners, your trees are your responsibility, if you are planning on having tree work done, contact a CERTIFIED ABORIST. You can check at the ISA website to find local Certified Arborists. Trees are meant to grow tall. Most trees if given the proper care will out live most of us. If you care about trees, if you care about future generations, start in your own yard with your own trees. I will repeat topping is an ultimate death sentence to a tree .Please STOP the practice of topping trees. Get a second opinion; check it out for yourself;


Molly Rice Certified Arborist Pn 2004

“A voice for the Trees.”

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Environmental Awareness

by Molly Rice
I am a Certified Arborist ,and also an Earth Steward, and energy worker, I work with nature spirits and energies. I feel a deep calling to be a "voice for the trees" educating humanity about trees. Most of the work I have done with the "general populace" has been the typical work an Arborist does, although I have always done the energy work along side it, just not in an open way, it's time to come out of the closet so to speak in the Tree Care Industry, so that more folks will recognize the living intelligence with in not only trees but all of nature and Mother Earth.