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"Topping" harms trees, shortens their benefits
Media Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Major Media Distribution
July 26, 2011                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Contact: Cynthia Orlando, 503-945-7421
Kristin Ramstad, 503-945-7390
Trees are a vital component of a healthy urban community. They supply a community's residents with a multitude of benefits including clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, and psychological well-being. Trees screen harsh scenery and absorb and block noise from the urban environment, and they help reduce our heating and cooling bills. They also raise property values.
With all of the benefits they provide, one might assume the trees in our cities and communities receive the best of care. Unfortunately, when it comes to tree pruning, this isn’t always the case.
First, a quick reminder: if the trees in your yard are in need of pruning, it’s best to wait until the winter months. January or February are both good months to take this on.
Most importantly, remember to avoid "topping" your tree.
Topping starves and shocks trees
Topping is a common but detrimental practice that damages a tree’s health and its value. Tree topping is the indiscriminate cutting back of tree branches to stubs. It weakens trees, leaves trees vulnerable to insects and disease, and shortens the life span of trees. Other names for tree topping are stubbing or topping off, but by any name, topping is the worst thing to do to the health of a tree.
Topping removes much of the tree’s protective “crown” of leaves and branches. The loss of foliage starves the tree, which weakens the roots. Also, without its crown, a tree cannot protect its sensitive bark from damaging sun and heat. The result is the splitting of the bark and the death of branches.
Topping is expensive
Each time a branch is cut, numerous long, skinny young shoots called suckers or watersprouts grow rapidly back to replace it. A topped tree must be done and re-done every few years, and eventually must be removed when it dies. A properly pruned tree stays “done” longer, since the work does not stimulate an upsurge of re-growth. And, proper pruning actually improves the health and beauty of a tree, saving you money in the long run.
Topping reduces the appraised value of your tree
A tree, like any landscape amenity, adds to the value of your property. Using the International Society of Arboriculture’s guidelines for evaluation, appraisers subtract hundreds of dollars from the value of a tree when it’s been topped. And, not only do topped trees reduce property values, they also eventually increase liability because of safety issues. In many cities, topping is banned because of the public safety factor and the potential of lawsuits.
Topping is ugly
Unfortunately, a tree’s 90-year achievement of natural beauty can be destroyed in a couple of hours. Topped trees appear disfigured and mutilated, and the freshly sawed look is just the beginning of the eyesore. The worst is yet to come, as the straight suckers and sprouts emerge from the branches. Sadly, once topped, a tree will never return to its natural shape and taper.
Proper pruning
Kristin Ramstad, urban forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry, hopes people can learn to appreciate the advantages of proper pruning and give up the practice of tree topping.  “Topping creates hazardous trees, but proper tree pruning creates healthy trees,” says Ramstad.
If the trees on your property are in need of pruning but you’re unsure just how to go about it, contact a certified arborist, your local university extension agent, or the Oregon Department of Forestry's urban forestry program in Salem.
Healthy trees = healthy communities
Trees make important social, environmental and economic contributions to the sustainability of our cities and our quality of life. Properly managed, healthy urban trees signify time and money well-spent, and are a good indicator of a healthy community.
For more information about trees and tree care:
*   Pacific Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture http://www.pnwisa.org/
*   International Society of Arboriculture www.treesaregood.com
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