Mar 23

Stop before you lop or top your tree. Use an arborist not a tree lopper

Stop before you lop or top your tree. Use an arborist not a tree lopper


 Picture this: You visit your manicurist because your nails are too long. She agrees you have a problem and recommends you have your whole arm be removed. Better yet, have both of your arms removed, just in case. While, technically, this solves the problem, it demands too high a price. Apparently, this “professional” isn’t sufficiently knowledgeable to offer less severe, more appropriate solutions.

Professional arborist use all the right safety equipment and when pruning trees don’t use spikes on their boots.  

Similar types of “solutions” are sometimes misapplied to tree care problems. The practice known as “topping or lopping” “the lopping off of large parts of a tree” is the tree care equivalent to amputation. Trees are often topped to height or shape, leaving branch stubs and little or no foliage.

Lion-tailing” is another practice that severely damages trees. In this case, the inner foliage, branches, and limbs of a tree are stripped bare. The lion-tailed tree has the unnatural form of a giant umbrella, with the remaining foliage limited to the ends of the branches! The limbs left on the tree are long and bare except for a characteristic “tuft” of foliage at the end, giving the appearance of a lion’s tail.

Consumers today are more knowledgeable and increasingly refuse to allow their trees to be topped or lopped. Unfortunately, some so-called professionals practice lion-tailing, which is not as instantly recognized as a bad practice by consumers.


Topping and lopping should not be confused with proper crown reduction pruning, which will safely reduce a tree’s size and redirect its growth. Nor should lion-tailing be confused with proper thinning, which is the selective removal of branches to decrease weight and wind resistance. Generally, proper pruning of either type will not remove more than 25 precent of the tree’s foliage.

Pruning Mature Trees

Pruning is the most common tree maintenance procedure performed by professional arborist. Although forest trees grow quite well with only nature’s pruning, landscape trees require a higher level of care to maintain their safety and aesthetics. Pruning service should be done with an understanding of how the tree responds to each cut. Improper pruning by tree loppers can cause damage that will last for the life of the tree, or worse, shorten the tree’s life. Australia has a standard that is a guide for pruning. AS 4373 2007 is now our current bench mark for good pruning practice.


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