Is it really bad to top trees?

There is a common misconception that topping a tree will revive it. This is simply not true and no one should be convinced to the contrary by anyone still trying to sell the so called service of topping. Without question, topping any species of tree (especially large, mature shade trees) is a harmful practice that almost always leads to structural defects and functional stress. Structural defects can lead to limb and branch failures that, on their own, can damage surrounding property. Severe enough limb and branch failures not properly addressed with pruning can lead to internal decay in trees which only worsens the tree's condition over time, both structurally and functionally. Functional stress can leave trees more susceptible to outside pathogens which can and often does lead to decline and/or mortality. In essence, there are no known benefits to "topping" trees but there are numerous, negative and often dangerous side-effects.

Please read what the International Society of Arboriculture has to say about topping trees.

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1. Is Hoover a Tree City USA?
2. Is it really bad to top trees?
3. My neighbors topped their Crapemyrtle. Should I top mine?