Topping Tree Underneath Electric Wires - Knowledgebase Question

Hazen, AR
Question by Dlloyd1951
November 22, 1999
Our electric co. wants to cut out about 8ft of one side of our pecan trees. I have told them no because I'm afraid it will kill our trees. I was under the understanding that topping a tree this way isn't good for a tree or it could kill it. What would you advise?


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Answer from NGA
November 22, 1999

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You are correct in that arborists advise against topping a tre by severely chopping off branches to stubs. Topping used to be justified as a way to ?shorten? a tree that had grown too tall for its space. What topping really shortens is the plant?s lifespan. Topping starves the tree by abruptly removing so much foliage. At the same time, the tree will struggle to reproduce the growth that was cut, expending tremendous energy to do so. The cuts leave open wounds for insects and disease to enter.

Topping also creates a hazard because new limbs are weakly attached and prone to breaking. The final result will likely be an unattractive tree that dies and has to be removed, or one that blows over in the wind because the fast regrowth at the top of the tree created a ?top heavy? condition.

However, if your tree is interfering with electrical wires that too is a hazard and the company may be justified in pruning it. When planting underneath or near utility wires it's important to determine the mature height of trees/plants and choose those that won't grow too tall. You may want to consult a certified professional arborist to determine if it's possible to save your tree. Since you will probably continue to have this problem, you might be better off removing the tree and planting something else. Good luck!

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