Rick Longnecker

According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), “topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs or to lateral branches that are not large enough to assume the terminal role.” This practice, which literally removes the top of a tree, is never a good idea.


Topping, also known as stubbing, dehorning or heading, actually causes a tree’s growth rate to increase rather than decrease. This results in numerous long, skinny shoots growing back rapidly, creating a need for even more cutting year after year.

Topping can lead to hazardous conditions in your landscape as well. When a tree is topped, it becomes more vulnerable to wood-rotting organisms. Rotted limbs may fall and cause serious injury or property damage.

It also goes without saying that topped trees are unattractive. This can take away from the overall beauty of your landscape while decreasing your property value.

We urge you to avoid topping your trees at all costs. This extreme practice does much more harm than good, and should never take the place of proper pruning by a trained technician. Regular, professional pruning is much better for your trees, improving their health and appearance while decreasing the potential for wind or storm damage.

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