DNR FIELD NOTES
October 13, 2009
DNR Field Notes: Tips to protect trees during Urban & Community Forestry Month
OLYMPIA – October is Urban and Community Forestry Month. The following commentary by Washington State Forester Chuck Turley describes the benefits of trees in urban and other developed areas. Mr. Turley suggests that landowners avoid ‘topping’ and other types of severe tree trimming this fall.
This commentary from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is provided for you to use in your publication or on your website.
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DNR Field Notes: Tips to protect your trees during Urban & Community Forestry Month
State forester says ‘topping’ trees can hurt their value and health
by Chuck Turley, Washington State Forester
Washington State Department of Natural Resources
It’s fall and as trees prepare for the winter stages of their growth cycles, it’s a good time to think about whether to trim trees on your property. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a big investment in trees, and so do you. To protect your investment, DNR cautions against ‘topping’ a tree. Topping is cutting major branches back to stubs, or removing more than half of the leafy crown of a tree.
Even if you live on a small lot, your trees probably add value to your property—from 7 to 25 percent, say many arborists and insurance appraisers. ‘Topping’ can reduce a tree’s visual appeal as well its value and health.
Topping stresses trees. Removing half or more of a tree’s leaf-bearing branches temporarily starves the tree. The tree tries to make up for a sudden, large loss of leaves by sprouting shoots below each major cut. The tree becomes stressed and more vulnerable to damaging insects and disease.
Topping causes decay. Whacking off branches indiscriminately leaves long stubs where branches once grew. These stubs are wounds that the tree cannot close, giving decay organisms a route into the remaining branches.
Topping is a hazard. When large parts of a tree are removed, the tree will grow new shoots as quickly as possible. These new shoots grow fast but are never as sturdy as the original branches. After a few years, these spindly sprouts grow longer but are still fragile and easily broken in the wind. The result is more danger to people, vehicles and structures than if the tree had been left alone.
Topping costs more in the long run. A topped tree will likely need pruning much sooner than if the job had been done correctly in the first place. The money you save by topping a tree is spent several times over on additional trimming.
Pruning a large tree is a hard and dangerous job for the average homeowner. Look for a tree care company with an experienced arborist on staff, and preferably one who is certified with one of the major national arborist organizations, such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), which is widely recognized as the industry’s standard. Ask for the trimmer’s proof of insurance. Get references and call them. Think twice about services that want to remove a large part of the leafy area of your trees. ‘Heading,’ ‘tipping,’ or ‘rounding over’ are all terms for topping. Find a certified arborist in your area by visiting the regional chapter of the ISA online at www.pnwisa.org.
Most homeowners don’t intend to hack up their trees. Usually, they are concerned about a tree growing too large for their urban lot. By turning to an inexperienced or inept tree trimmer, they often end up with a mess. If a tree is truly too large for your lot or poses a hazard to you, neighbors or utilities, it may have to be removed and replaced with a smaller-growing species more suitable to the site.
DNR staffs a Community and Urban Forestry Program that advises private landowners and communities about tree health. We can share tips on how you and your community can be good stewards of the trees around you—in your town and in your yard. Contact us by calling 360-902-1703 or 1-800-532-TREE. Our e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org . Find more online at DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry web page [http://www.dnr.wa.gov/ResearchScience/Topics/UrbanForestry/Pages/rp_urban_commandurbanforestry.aspx]
[October is Urban and Community Forestry Month.]
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