Topping hurts treesBy Shane Moore

Every year, there are beautiful trees whose lives will be cut short by improper pruning. The indiscriminate cutting of tree branches can ruin your trees.

St. George is a unique city in the desert southwest. We are a community with a wonderful urban forest. Our downtown streets are lined with shade trees. We as a community take pride in our “oasis” in the desert. Our trees provide shade and relief from our hot summer sun.

The practice of topping causes a tree to go into stress mode. When a tree is topped, 50 to 100 percent of leafed branches are removed, taking away the tree’s food source. Trees store carbohydrates or “food” in their branches, trunks, and roots. Topping a tree can remove valuable energy stores and a tree’s ability to perform photosynthesis.

When all of a tree’s leaves are removed, a tree will sprout water suckers from dormant buds along the remaining branches. Water suckers are fast growing branches that have a weak attachment to the tree’s trunk. These branches are where future branch failures can and will occur.

Topping opens a tree up to decay. Trees can heal a wound from a proper pruning cut but not from a stub cut. A branch that has been cut in the middle is a superhighway for disease to enter the tree.

Most trees don’t require a lot of pruning. Only branches that are crossing and rubbing or dead and dying need to be removed. If you feel that your tree needs to be pruned, consult with an arborist certified by the International Society of Arborists. Always demand that your tree is pruned to International Society of Arborists standards.

All trees that are in the St. George City right of way are protected under the shade tree ordinance. If you have a tree concern, you can call (435) 627-4530 to speak with city staff.

Trees are a valuable piece of our community. Help protect our urban forest. Please don’t top your trees.

Shane Moore is a St. George urban forester and a board-certified master arborist.

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