When should I consider Tree Topping?

When should I consider Tree Topping?

Despite clear evidence, some of the population maintains that tree topping can stimulate the growth of a tree, lessen the cost of pruning, and generally manage the size of a tree. However, topping a tree is more damaging than helpful and far riskier than most are aware of.

What is Tree Topping?

To put simply, topping is a method of severe pruning which removes the entire top out of a healthy tree, removing the oldest and heaviest stabilising branches, leaving behind a wound in more ways than one. Topping a tree removes the heart of the tree’s branches so to speak. This leaves a tree vulnerable to wind damage, weakened by taking away the main growth that supported its weight, stunting the growth of the branches and leaves a gaping wound at risk of infection.

Other terms for this practice of severe pruning are: 

  • Topping
  • Tipping
  • Dehorning
  • Heading
  • Rounding over
  • Stubbing

Tree topping poses a huge risk to a tree in several ways. Trees require a large amount of leaf surface for photosynthesis; tree topping eliminates too much leaf growth on the branches that are removed. This creates a huge hindrance on the tree gaining nutrients for healthy growth.

Wounds caused by tree topping are commonly more than most trees can take. It is true that a healthy tree can usually survive a wound, however, tree topping leaves a large number of stubs that on the whole are too much wound to close and or recover from.

Tree Topping
Tree Topping

This method of pruning puts the tree’s bark at risk for severe damage from the sun. It also creates weak stubs that are vulnerable to heavy wind and storm damage as they become weak and often decay and eventually die. Some mistakenly believe that topping a tree is cheaper than hiring a tree expert to properly maintain their trees. The drawbacks prove otherwise.

When you top your trees they may not recover from it. If they recover, they will more than likely require years of corrective pruning. The trees may be left disfigured and scarred, lowering property value and present an ongoing risk of possible damage caused by weakening and very possibly decaying or dying branches. This method of pruning removes a tree’s heart, removing their natural beauty and leaving behind scarring and disfigurement.


What are the reasons for a topping?

The most common reasons for doing this is when a tree is overgrown and the owner considers it undesirable. Perhaps the tree is casting excess shade on a garden, or branches are overhanging or coming in contact with utility lines.

Tree topping can cause a tree to become a liability. However, proper trimming keeps a tree healthy and strong by eliminating the dead wood and encouraging new growth while allowing as much of the leaf surface to remain allowing for water and nutrients. The tree’s heart is the branches that stabilise it in wind and hefts its weight in the sunshine. Healthy trees are beautiful and create oxygen.  

Does cutting dead branches help a tree?

Does cutting dead branches help a tree?

Cutting off dead branches of a tree helps it in many ways, especially when done by an arborist. You can remove dead branches by yourself, but at first, you need to have a close examination of these branches. After doing it for a period of time, it will become easier to point out the branches that need to be pruned.

During spring and summer, one of the easiest ways to identify branches that are dead is by looking at the leaves. If the branch is bare while other branches still have leaves, it is a clear indication that the branch is dead.

Are the branches bare and some have clinging dead leaves? If the tree is deciduous and has shed off the leaves, there should be none clinging. Therefore, if one or some of the branches have clinging leaves, it is an indication that the branches are dead and need to be pruned.

However, you should be very cautious with some tree species that tend to hold on to their leaves even when they should’ve dropped them. Some of these species include the oaks, beeches and other sapling trees.

tree surgeon branches

The bark has fallen off: 
It is normal for tree bark to fall off over time but for a healthy wood, the bark is replaced with new layers to avoid exposing the smooth wood underneath. Hence, it is a warning sign if most of the bark has fallen off. Remember, it is the bark (phloem) of the tree that transport food from the leaves to the roots. Therefore, if most of the bark has fallen off, there are higher chances that the tree can eventually die.

Large fungus:

Wood conchs and shelf fungus are signs that a section of the wood is affected by infectious microorganisms. If the tree is not treated or the affected branch is not pruned, the entire tree might dry off from the infection.


Pruning Your Tree

Pruning is an essential practice to maintain your trees in perfect condition. You are required to prune your trees often to remove dead branches as well as other branches that are growing in an unwanted direction. This will ensure that the tree grows in the right direction and it has the right shape because it is properly trimmed. 

Pruning is also done for safety purposes. First, the dead branches should be pruned so that they cannot rot and fall on their own, causing potential damage and injury.

You can prune the trees yourself, but if you don’t have the necessary equipment and skills, you should consider hiring a tree removal company. You will not only benefit from professional services but also evade the risk of climbing tall trees with limited or no knowledge of how to prune a tree. 

Finally, the method of pruning a tree, how often it should be pruned and what should be done to keep the tree in an ideal condition should only be determined by an experienced arborist. Therefore, consider seeking help from these professionals instead of doing it yourself.

How to treat a sick tree

How to treat a sick tree

Just like animals, plants/trees have an immune system that resists insect and microbes infestation to keep the tree healthy. However, when the immune system is unable to resist these infections, the tree gets sick, and it can die if not treated. You should look out for the signs that show your tree is sick so that you can act swiftly.

There are some factors that predispose a tree into getting sick. For instance, if you plant a tree and then add a lot of topsoil/eroded soil to the root flare, you might be predisposing the tree to get sick or even dying. First of all, the excess topsoil reduces the amount of oxygen available to the roots. This is not good because the roots require the availability of oxygen for processes like nitrogen fixation. Secondly, if a tree has excess topsoil or mulch, there is a high chance that the tree will retain a lot of moisture which can cause rotting. Alternatively, excess mulch might be a habitat for some insects that feed on the plant or transmit diseases.

How can you tell if a tree is sick?

There are some signs you can look out for to determine whether or not a tree is diseased. Here are some of the signs:


1) Discoloured and dropping foliage

In most trees, healthy foliage is supposed to be bright green. Therefore, if your tree’s foliage starts to turn yellow or brown, the root system of the tree has been damaged by drought or flooding. The root system is responsible for absorbing water and nutrients from the soil up to the leaves for photosynthesis.

Sick Tree

Drought – if drought is the main reason why the leaves of your tree are dropping or getting discoloured, you need to run a soaker hose around the tree. The hose should start 1 foot from the trunk to the edge of the canopy. The soaker hose should run for about 45 minutes. This should be repeated twice or thrice a month depending on rainfall reliability.

Flood – after a flood, the tree may take 2 – 3 weeks before showing any signs of damage. After the water has receded, remove damaged limbs and then carry out a soil test to determine the level of minerals. 


2) Oozing through bark

This is a sign that the tree had a fungal/insect infection and required immediate attention. If the tree has a healthy immune system, it will take some time, but it will heal itself. However, if the immune system is too weak, you need to hire a certified arborist to carefully assess the tree and advise you on what should be done to save the tree. In addition, the arborist will check the tree regularly to assess its development and healing process.

Depending on the condition of your tree, the two main ways of dealing with a sick tree is treatment or removal. Treatment is recommended if the disease is in its early stages and there is a probability that it can be healed. However, if the tree cannot be treated, it is wise to remove it to avoid putting the buildings or other people at risk. If the tree lives for decades or centuries, death is a part of their ecological cycle. Therefore, you can decide to wait or have it removed to avoid possible injuries or damages. There are advantages and disadvantages to removing or treating the sick trees. Therefore, talking to a certified arborist to evaluate the pros and cons of each is advisable.

Difference in Tree Surgeon and Arborist

Difference in Tree Surgeon and Arborist

Tree surgeon and arborist are job descriptions that are mostly used interchangeably. Some people use one for the other and sometimes think that they have the same meaning. It is true there is a similarity between the two professions. However, there are distinctions between an arborist and a tree surgeon.

Tree surgeons take pride in having the qualification and vast experience in looking after trees and maintaining them. Their work involves mostly climbing and pruning them. However, tree surgeons are not always trained fully in the advanced care of trees. Also, they may not manage many biomechanical and biological issues facing trees and woodland. 

A tree surgeon can comfortably remove a tree stump or branch. They can also do hedge trimming and tree felling. But a professional inspection of the tree and proper management advice necessitate more expertise.

An experienced and qualified arborist, also called an arboricultural consultant, extensively understands early tree failure symptoms. They are capable of providing the right management recommendations. A tree surgeon cannot competently inspect tree condition as well as performing BS5837 surveys thereby assuring tree’s safety. If something goes wrong, a consulting arborist has Professional Indemnity Insurance to cover it.

Tree Surgeon

A Tree surgeon is skilled with safe tree pruning, removing and felling trees, including removing tree stumps. This is not a job that can be performed by anyone with a saw. It is the same way you would never allow your neighbour to operate on you without having practised as a qualified surgeon.

Fully qualified tree surgeons carry out very difficult jobs that are mostly dangerous. They can take on those tasks with precision, care, and professionalism. They must always ensure work is completed safely. For example, felling a tree requires a great deal of accuracy that cannot be attained without adequate training. There are many wrong things that can happen during felling trees such as bringing down surrounding trees when target trees crash into them.

Tree Surgeon


If you consider a tree surgeon as a medical surgeon, then an arborist can be considered as a doctor. The arborist is capable of identifying tree diseases accurately by observing symptoms that are displaying on the tree. They then provide the right recommendations to treat the tree. Treatment may involve passing the tree to a tree surgeon when required.

There are many interactions within ecological systems that make them very complex and vary widely according to the environment. Therefore, forestry agencies and gardeners cannot always mix groups of plants like trees together and expect harmony among them. It’s unfortunate that things cannot work that way all the time.

Arborist John Fryer

There are many similarities and some differences between a Tree Surgeon and an Arborist. An Arborist is trained and qualified to offer expert management and advice in all tree care aspects. In addition to tree work, their job involves evaluation of trees as well as surrounding area. They then perform only minimum tree work required to protect trees and environment as per the British Standards Recommendations.

A tree surgeon is trained to perform work like tree felling and pruning. Tree surgeons offer tree maintenance services such as pruning, tree felling, reducing, and removing dangerous trees from confined areas as per British BS3998:2010 Tree Work Recommendations.

What Does a Tree Surgeon do?

What Does a Tree Surgeon do?

A tree surgeon has many responsibilities related to tree safety and management, including planting, pruning, felling and offering general treatment to care for and maintain trees. Depending on the services a tree surgeon is offering, they should be proficient with a range of tools, be able to work outside in all weather conditions and be physically fit.

A tree surgeon will offer professional advice on how you should take care of hedges, trees and other vegetation in your property. They have a responsibility for safety and care and can get into a lot of trouble for neglecting or failing to fulfil their responsibilities. Besides having an overgrown hedge on your property, there are a number of worse things that can happen:

  • Do you need permission from the council?
  • Do you live in a conservation area?
  • What is the level of risk to you, neighbours and passersby for tree surgery on your property?
  • Are there relevant Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)?


If you ignore any of these things, you might end up in a lot of trouble especially when you break the law. You don’t have to hire anybody who owns a chainsaw or claims to be a tree surgeon without the right qualifications. The services might be affordable at first, but they can be very costly in the long run. Therefore, it is advisable to hire a professional tree surgeon to help you determine the right course of action.


Tree surveys

It is the responsibility of a tree surgeon to carry out hazard assessments and inspections with the aim of assessing the health of trees and if there are any potential dangers. When tree surveys are conducted, they help a tree surgeon to determine the amount of work that needs to be done, how long will the work take and how will the work affect the public (if applicable). If the tree surgeons are handling private work, the survey will determine what’s need to be done, what the client needs, the cost, amount of disruption and estimated time.

Tree Felling

Tree felling is considered a dangerous activity as can lead to damages and causalities. It is the tree surgeon’s responsibility to ensure that they consider all the factors before they fell a tree. This job is very technical because the equipment to be used and the process of felling the tree should be determined before everything commences. Here are some of the things a tree surgeon must consider before making a final decision:

  • The location of the tree
  • Where it will fall when it is finally felled?
  • The best way of felling the tree?
  • The manpower required
  • Equipment and tools to be used


Depending on the location, trees that need to be felled might be very challenging and only accumulated knowledge and skills could be of help. Ensure you hire a professional tree surgeon if you need any of the services we have discussed above.