Tree Topping

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

People don't buy snake oil anymore, and it's no longer popular to bleed patients with leeches, so why do Missourians continue to pay good money to butcher their trees?

Look around your neighborhood, and you'll probably see many examples of a hideous tree trimming practice called "topping," the severe cutting of tree limbs, usually from the top down. This complete removal or cutting back of large branches in mature trees leaves large, open wounds which subject the tree to disease and decay. Topping causes immediate injury to the tree and ultimately results in the tree's early death.

Other names for this malpractice include stubbing, heading, heading-back, stubbing-off, tipping, hatracking, topping-off, dehorning, lopping or roundover. Whatever it's called, topping is the worst thing to do to a tree.

Topping is still widely practiced throughout Missouri. People top trees for many reasons, all of them based on falsehoods and misconceptions. In fact, topping permanently destroys a tree's natural beauty and exposes it to disease and decay.

"Ultimately, a topped tree will cost more to maintain than a properly pruned tree," said Gene Brunk, Missouri Community Forestry Council Vice-Chair and Anti Tree Topping Public Service Campaign Chair.

Don't Top Your Tree

To advocate proper tree management practices, the Missouri Community Forestry Council, in partnership with Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, launched a public service campaign titled, "Experts Agree Don't Top Your Tree." The campaign is designed to educate people about the misconceptions that surround the common practice of tree topping and to offer alternative solutions to tree problems.

The Missouri Community Forestry Council (MCFC) is a grassroots organization composed of individuals interested in community forestry issues in their hometowns. MCFC is composed of nine active regional councils and a statewide council that assists owners' associations in the management of urban and community forests.

"The Missouri Community Forestry Council's purpose in sponsoring this campaign is to educate the public on proper tree care and to dispel many of the misconceptions regarding tree care," said MCFC Chair Bill Reininger. "As the only statewide grassroots community forestry organization in Missouri, MCFC has the desire and technical knowledge to help improve Missouri's urban tree resources. Tree topping is a major problem that needs addressing. We hope our efforts in the long run will help to change people's perceptions and behavior regarding tree care."

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri administers the campaign, providing expertise in media relations, fundraising, grants coordination and

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