408 867-0143 | Since 1973 | ISA Certified Arborist
Saratoga Tree Service

Topping (not recommended)



Although it is still widely used, the practice of "topping" is on its way out as an accepted form of height reduction for a tree. This type of improper pruning produces instant results for the customer. It may seem that this shortened tree is now safer and will be so for a long time before it needs any work.

The truth

When a tree is topped, the resulting growth forms from what are called "epicormic buds" or water sprouts. The branches that form from these buds are weakly attached to the main wood of the tree and they grow at a very fast rate. When the high winds and rain of winter come, the "topped" trees often lose their branches before the larger, but properly pruned trees do. These top cuts decay and can be covered over by the growth of the new cambium tissue. The problem becomes hidden internally. Decay spreads inside this tree until these side branches get heavy enough to cause the tree to self-destruct<


Eucalyptus, Ash and Elm are but a few of the trees that we are asked to trim on older complexes where topping has been the norm for many years. Now the trees have no natural canopy shape left, and there is little or no strong branch structure left


Once again, "topping" refers to a fast, non-selective type of pruning that will be bid at a much lower price but the end results are destructive and costly.


Topping was done as a regular practice and people assumed it was right for the trees. It made for repeat business and repeat profits!


We now know better but it is still being done. Dangerous trees are developing and the life span of trees are being shortened.



Because it is so well understood that topping is wrong and creates dangerous or dying trees, lawers will have an easy time of it. Climbers can be hurt or killed when working on a tree that was topped in the past. Often the topped area becomes so well hidden, that a climber is not able to recognize the hazard.


Like a tree, this site is growing. Check back often to see how we are evolving.