Cut a Little Off The Top: Good For Haircuts, But Bad For Trees


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

May 21, 2004

 

Cut a Little Off The Top: Good For Haircuts, But Bad For Trees

 

On the streets, it is known as "topping," "heading," "tipping," "hat-racking" or "rounding over," and Fairfax County Government urban foresters want homeowners to cut it out. Radically pruning trees by loping off their leafy tops makes trees more unstable and dangerous.

The International Society of Arboriculture recommends these pruning practices instead:

  • Use reduction pruning instead of topping. Reduction pruning reduces the size of longer branches by cutting back lateral ones. Some branches are removed at their point of origin.
  • Avoid excessive thinning of interior branches. It can lead to rapid growth of upright interior shoots and limb breakage.
  • Before pruning, consult a certified arborist, who can teach homeowners how to safely maintain and care for trees.

Due to the effects of Hurricane Isabel last year, many homeowners are concerned about trees growing too close to homes or utility lines. However, there are effective ways to trim back large trees without resorting to topping. Topping makes trees more susceptible to insects and disease; leads trees to decay or die; and results in trees more likely to topple in windy conditions.

For removal of dead or hazardous trees on public property, county residents can seek help from several government agencies. For trees within the right-of-way on most public streets, call the Virginia Department of Transportation at 703-383-2105, TTY 711. For trees on county parkland, call the Fairfax County Park Authority at 703-324-8594, TTY 711. For trees on active construction projects, call the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at 703-324-1950, TTY 711.

To learn more about proper pruning and tree maintenance, contact the Fairfax County Urban Forestry Division at 703-324-1770, TTY 711.

 

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS

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