1. Starvation: Good pruning practices rarely remove more than 1⁄4 to 1/3 of the tree’s crown, which in turn does not seriously interfere with the tree’s leafy crown to manufacture food. Topping removes so much of the crown that it upsets an older tree’s well-developed crown-to-root ratio and temporarily cuts off its food-making ability.
2. Shock: A tree’s crown is like an umbrella that shields much of the tree from the direct rays of the sun. By suddenly removing this protection, the remaining bark tissue is so exposed that scalding may result. There may also be a dramatic effect on neighboring trees and shrubs. If these thrive in shade and the shade is removed, poor health or death may result.
3. Insect and Disease: The large stubs of a topped tree have a difficult time forming callus tissue. The terminal location of these cuts, as well as their large diameter, prevent the tree’s chemically based natural defense system from doing its job. The stubs are highly vulnerable to insect invasion and the spores of decaying fungi. If decay is already present in the limbs, opening the limb will speed the spread of the disease.
4. Weak Limbs: At best, the wood of a new limb that sprouts after a larger limb has had its top cut off is more weakly attached than a limb that develops normally. If rot exists or develops at the severed end of the limb, the weight of the sprout makes a bad situation even worse.
5. Rapid New Growth: The goal of topping is usually to control the height and spread of a tree. Actually, it has just the opposite effect. The resulting sprouts (often called water sprouts) are far more numerous than normal new growth and they elongate so rapidly that the tree returns to its original height in a very short time – and with a far more dense and dangerous re-growth pattern.
6. Tree Death: Some species of trees are less tolerant to topping than others. Beeches, for example, do not sprout readily after severe pruning and the reduced foliage many times leads to the death of the tree. This type of response is also very typical of many conifers, leading to death from insect attacks. Mulberry trees on the other hand are specimens, which can withstand heavy topping. Some mulberries are topped annually by their owners. However, many tree varieties cannot recover from severe topping practices.
7. Ugliness: A topped tree is a disfigured tree. Even with its regrowth it never regains the grace and character of its species. The landscape and the community are robbed of a valuable asset.
8. Cost: To a worker with a saw, topping a tree is much easier than applying the skill and judgment needed for a good pruning. Therefore, topping may cost less in the short run. However, the true costs of topping are hidden. These include: reduced property value, the expense of removal and replacement if the tree dies, the loss of other trees and shrubs if they succumb to changed light conditions, the risk of liability from weakened branches, and increased future maintenance. For many, the real cost may come in the future payouts associated with court actions associated with life and property damage due to improper pruning practice not accepted within the scope of proper