Why tree lopping treatments can be controversial for some

Why tree lopping treatments can be controversial for some
Photo: Valoor, Bigstock

The term tree lopping is used very loosely and people may say tree lopping meaning anything from tree removal to pruning or thinning a tree.

What is tree lopping?

Tree lopping is in simple the removal of the top of a trees foliage. Lopping leaves behind small branches or small stubs. Other terms used for lopping include topping, tipping, heading, rounding over and hat-racking.

The small branches or stubs that are left behind have to try and shoot new growth which will always have weak point where the tree was lopped.

Lopping damages trees

Short term and long term issues are created when trees are lopped. We need to remember that trees are living creatures and respond accordingly.

Sunburn

The leaves of a tree do not only provide shade and shelter for humans and other living creatures, it provides shade and absorbs sunlight. With it shade gone, the remaining branches or stubs are exposed to the direct heat of the sun. Trees are susceptible to sun damage.

When a tree is sunburnt, the damage could be as little as some splitting bark which could make a healthy tree look unsightly. In more serious cases, sunburn can lead to the death of some branches.

Stress & starvation

Apart from simply providing shade, the leaves of a tree also provide nutrients. Lopping a tree and removing the leaves can temporarily starve a tree. If a tree is starving, it may go into survival mode and trigger different reactions.

In a worst case scenario, if the tree gets stressed and tries to produce new leaves or shoots and does not have enough stored energy, it could die. Along with losing a tree, you will have to consider whether you need to remove the tree or remaining stump altogether.

Future problems created by lopping

Lopping a tree does not stop the lopped parts from growing. After a tree is lopped, it will produce more shoots which develop from buds near the surface of lopped branches. Since they develop near the surface, they are weaker and have a tendency to break. In our weather conditions where we can have strong winds or lots of rain, this is definitely something to take into consideration in the future.

When considering the necessity of lopping in this instance, it is important to consider the circumstances and conditions around the tree. For example, if the tree is located very close to property or even in a location where people frequent, a falling branch may cause property or even personal injury.

The controversy of lopping

With damage to the tree being lopped and future problems created from lopping which could lead to personal or property damage, tree lopping becomes a controversial subject. There are instances where lopping may be necessary but other scenarios where alternative methods could apply. Furthermore, there are people who take to lopping trees themselves or handymen who offer lopping who are not qualified arborists. While it may be a short term fix, the long term effects are not accounted for.

Additional maintenance after lopping

There are some misconceptions that lopping stimulates tree growth. For those trees that do survive, with newer and weaker branches, it becomes important to regularly maintain a tree especially if it is near persons or property. The cost of maintenance or even clearing if branches do fall need to be taken into consideration in the long run.

Consult with a professional

If you find yourself needing to lop a tree, it is highly advisable to consult with a qualified, experienced and professional arborist. A good tree lopping company will consult with you to determine whether lopping is the best option or whether alternative methods should be considered. Alternatives could include pruning or trimming, full removal or even relocation.

When working above the ground with trees, there is also safety to take into consideration. A qualified professional will be trained and skilled in the unlikely event of an accident and will be adequately insured in case of personal or property damage.

What do you think about it?