Is Tree Lopping or Topping a Tree Bad?

You may have heard of tree lopping before and in some cases may have used this term but not known exactly what it is or what it implies. Tree lopping is something that has been practiced for many years and is not a new concept. In our industry, there is also some controversy around tree lopping.

What Is Tree Lopping/Topping?

Tree lopping is simply the removal of the top of a trees foliage, when the whole top of the tree is cut of not back to growth points , leaving behind large stubs and or small branches which then have to try to shoot new growth which will always have a week point, at the lopping point. Other terms for Tree lopping/Topping include tipping, heading, hat-racking and rounding over.

Why is Tree Lopping/ Topping Controversial?

The short answer is tree lopping damages trees leaving weakened growth which can never be repaired. There are misconceptions that lopping a tree will stimulate tree growth. While some species of trees are more likely to recover from the effects of tree lopping, this pratice will lead to the tree needing to be re-lopped on a regular timetable to avoid dangerous branches from falling.

There are some instances that tree lopping is useful if you want to turn your row of trees into a hedge, for protection from the wind or neighbours.

While the average person’s knowledge is limited on the subject, there are instances of some so called professionals lopping trees when there are alternative methods of achieving the same desired result without damaging the trees and make them unsafe.

tree lopping vs tree pruningThe Concerns of Tree Lopping/Topping

Tree lopping was commonly carried out when trees outgrew their space. In some instances, it was the quick solution to lop a tree when it grew close to power lines. At home, residences would simply top a tree to reduce its height under the assumption that it would reduce risks of having a tall tree on the property.

The reality is lopping trees is more harmful in the long term. Some of the major concerns of topping trees include:

Lopping/Topping can cause Sunburn

The leaves of the trees shade and absorb sunlight. Like human beings, if you took our shade away and left us exposed directly to the sun, trees are also susceptible to sun damage. The effects of sunburn to a tree could be as little as its bark splitting or in worse cases, the death of some branches.

Lopping/Topping Starves and Stresses Trees

The leaves of a tree also provide its nutrients and removing them can starve a tree temporarily. Like other living creatures, if one is starving it may go into survival mode and trigger a few different reactions. The worst scenario for a tree is if it gets stressed trying to produce new leaves or shoots and doesn’t have enough stored energy, it could die.

Lopping/Topping Trees and Future Problems

When a branch is lopped, a tree will produce more shoots. These shoots develop from buds near the surface of the lopped branches so these new shoots are weak and have a tendency to break which is not good for climates like ours where we have strong winds and heavy rain.

The Cost of Lopping Trees

While tree maintenance is always going to be a factor to consider, there are additional costs to consider in the long run after the initial cost to top the tree. With weakened branches growing, additional maintenance work may be needed when the shoots grow and especially as they get bigger and heavier. Not to mention if the new branches break and fall, it may cause personal or property damage to you or your neighbours.

Alternatives to Tree Topping

There are definitely alternatives to tree lopping depending on where the tree is located and the future intent of its location. If you have a big tree at home and you really need to reduce its lateral weight and thin it out not necessarily its height to minimise risk, then a proper tree pruning service is a very good alternative. Getting your tree pruned correctly not only ensures its health and future growth, it minimises the risks of bad growth, potential property damage and personal injury in the future.

If it is a scenario where the tree might need to be removed completely, then you can consider removing it completely and wood chipping so that it can be put to good use. You could even consider transplanting the tree to a new location.

Use a Qualified and Experienced Professional Arborist

We highly recommend using the services of a fully qualified and experienced tree arborist. Not only will that mean getting the job done right to minimise the potential of future risks, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of safety and you will also get the right advice for your tree.

As professionals in the industry, we are trained and continue to undertake training for best practices not only in tree removal services but climbing in dangerous tree work situations while working with EWPs to get the job done.

A good tree removal company will also be adequately insured should there be an unfortunate incident. One thing we are proud to say is on top of being good at our job, we are licensed to work around power lines and to carry out dangerous tree work which not only gives us credibility for the work we do, it also gives our customers the comfort of knowing that we are legally allowed to perform these tasks.

Need Help?

We provide tree services in Perth. If you are in Perth and surrounding areas and need help, contact us and we are happy to help point you in the right direction. We’re also happy to provide you with a free quote for your project. If you are in another part of the world, please definitely seek the assistance of your local qualified tree arborist..