Can maple trees be topped?

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Maple trees are one of the tree variants that many people like, as they are considered to be very attractive, especially during fall. Aside from the beautiful brown and orange shaded leaves red maples display during this particular season, maple trees also come in different shapes and sizes that will absolutely fit your preference.

Due to the reason that maple trees are striking, adaptive, and have different varieties, homeowners often find themselves wanting to plant one on their property. In fact, some states in the U.S even planted these trees for commercial purposes, especially in Vermont, where maple trees are used to make syrup. 

However, what some people do not know is that maple trees are fast growers, which means that they grow around 12 to 18 inches in their height every year. This can be a problem, especially if the maple tree is planted on a residential area, as tall trees can be dangerous for passersby. 

If you have a maple tree on your property, there is a high chance that you will encounter this problem sooner or later. Because of this, there are many practices that are done to keep maple trees at a regular height. One of the methods used is called topping.

What does “topping a tree” mean?

Topping a tree is a pruning method used to basically trim off the top of a tree, hence its name. This practice is usually done by removing the limbs of a tree or by even cutting a part of the main trunk itself. Because the topping process essentially removes the leaf-bearing crown of the tree, the method is heavily frowned upon in the present. In fact, topping is often called a crime against nature, as it is very harmful to a tree and may even cause its eventual death.





Should a maple tree be topped?

As was mentioned above, many professionals in the tree industry do not recommend having a tree topped. In the case of maple trees where the specific tree in question grows in height at a moderate pace, arborists – also called tree experts, will still NEVER recommend topping. They will instead suggest other methods that will be safer for your tree, such as regular pruning

Here are the reasons why it is not recommended to top a tree:

  1. Topping puts heavy stress on a tree. 

When a tree’s crown is removed, the procedure can be considered a major operation that will put the tree under a high amount of stress. In fact, topping is even considered as an unnecessary mutilation of a tree without any good results. A topped tree is also called an injured tree, and often, the tree will eventually wither or die on its own. 

  1. Topping will damage your tree.

A maple tree will be topped either of the two ways: one is by cutting off the branches at the top that will also remove most of its foliage, and the other will be cutting off a part of the main trunk which is also similar to balding the tree. When this is done, the tree will not be able to make an adequate amount of food, and can even be sunburnt as they will not have enough protection from the sun’s rays. 

  1. Topping will make your tree more attractive to pests.

Pests and insects can make their way through the wounds of the tree that is the result of the topping procedure. Because the tree is injured, it will rot faster, which is what most pests want their environment to be. If nothing will be done to save the tree, the infestation will be too much that it will cause the maple tree’s unfortunate demise.

  1. Topping will not solve your tree’s growing problem.

Most people who own a maple tree will usually consider topping their tree when it has reached a height that is way past what they thought it would be. Especially in residential areas, a tall tree can pose a problem to the properties and people around it. However, topping will not solve your tree’s growing problem, and will in fact make it worse. When a maple tree is topped, it will even grow more rapidly, as the procedure has enhanced the growth of the tree’s water sprouts. In cases like this, it is no surprise that a topped tree will grow twice the height it originally was after just a few months of topping it. 

  1. Topping is an expensive procedure.

As mentioned above, topping a tree will enhance its growth. This would mean that if you decide to not give up on topping and want to do it again instead of other procedures, you will need to pay for the method to be done every couple of months and years. Also, because topping a tree makes your maple more susceptible to diseases, infections, and infestations, you will need to pay more money for other treatment methods. 

  1. Topping a tree will make it more dangerous. 

Aside from the many cons that come with topping a tree, another reason why arborists would never recommend this procedure especially on trees planted in residential areas is that a topped tree is very dangerous. This is what happens when a tree is topped: When its crown or top trunk is removed, it will affect the tree’s water sprouts, which will enhance its growth. However, this would not mean “healthy growth.”  The new branches that have grown from the topped area are known to be weaker and smaller. Because the new growth is frail, accidents are bound to happen, and it is possible that they will easily break and fall, causing accidents. 

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