It has only rarely been my practice to co-opt this blog as a bully pulpit from which to discuss matters I feel strongly about. So, please excuse this digression. I had the camera with me the other day when we cycled passed these trees and I could not keep from stopping and recording the scene. The arguments I have heard in support of tree-topping are numerous. Some argue that limbs interfere with electrical wires or that they object to leaves being deposited on roofs, automobiles, or driveways. I am sure that there are others who resent having a favorite view obscured. Be these justifications as they may I, at least, do not believe that there can be any valid reason to do this to another living thing. Trees are living organisms with physical and physiological requirements which the practice of topping disrupts. In the first place, and most obviously, the instantaneous removal of the entire photosynthetic surface deprives the individual of additional stores of food – absolutely. The trees shown here were topped at just that time of the year when the downward movement of carbohydrate into the roots to support maintenance overwinter was maximal. Come the break of winter it will be those nutrients which will support growth during the very early spring. Deprivation of this sort will, very likely, cause some amount of root biomass to die back and this can have manifold consequences including decreased capacity for (non-photosynthetic) nutrient uptake and increased instability of the entire structure. If nutrient deprivation doesn’t kill the individual it will certainly run a physiological deficit as all of its growing points have been removed – it will need to regrow all of these from scratch. Secondly, the removal of such large limbs exposes a tremendous amount of living tissue to the causative agents of disease. Although there are repair mechanisms to thwart the entrance of such agents when twigs and branchlets are lost – the simultaneous exposure of so much cross-sectional area is perhaps more than the individual can cope with. Every last cut exposes the living tissue to invasion by viruses, molds and other fungi, bacteria, and insects. And finally the regrown limbs that will develop after topping can never have structural integrity that is equal to those that were originally formed. So, if the tree does not die of starvation, if it does not die of disease, and if it does not fail structurally … the individual will be forever disfigured. What a shame. [If you’d like to read more about tree-topping check out the website of Plant Amnesty.]

%d bloggers like this: