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Heading is one name for a dangerous practice, one that involves the improper cutting of branches. Other names for the same practice are these: topping, tipping and rounding over as per the Tree Trimming service in Palo Alto.

What could push a homeowner to head a tree?

• A desire to reduce the tree’s size
• Lack of awareness to the risks that are linked to performance of heading

Why is that specific practice considered risky?

It could cause removal of 50% to 100% of the topped tree’s leaf-bearing branches. Those have functioned as a source of food. Consequently, topping/heading could trigger starvation of the affected tree. It might activate any dormant insects that have made a home in the tree’s trunk or roots.

Many shoots develop in the area below the cut branches. That represents an attempt to form more leaves. Unfortunately, the shoots are attached to the outermost layers of the parent branches, rather than being anchored in a stronger layer of wood. Hence, emergence of the shoots increases the chance for limb failure.

Arborists have learned how to cut off branches without using the methods that are linked to heading/topping.

The arborist makes a pruning cut below the region of the branch’s collar. That is where it has retained an attachment to the trunk. Although the resulting cut should be viewed as a wound, it is one that ought to heal thoroughly.

Sometimes heading creates excess wood in the form of stubs. Those are prone to decay. Moreover, the decay created by the stubs cannot be walled off from the rest of the affected tree.

Why might an arborist’s tasks include that of topping trees?

Sometimes the clearance needed by a utility company does not exist, because of the trees growing along that yet-to-be-cleared path. When utility companies face such a situation, then the company’s boss relies on arborists’ expertise.

Sometimes lightning hits a tree that the city has planted in the area close to the curb. When that happens, then it becomes an arborist’s job to top the hit tree, if that can be done safely. If such topping would invite development of risks, then an arborist’s experience might add support to those that have favored elimination of the living structure that has been hit.

What could happen after city workers have removed a tree that was close to the curb?

The residents in the home behind that curb might regret the loss of a source of shade. Yet, many cities use some of their tax dollars to replace any removed tree.

Of course, that replacement could not be as old and large as the other trees, those that did not get hit by lightning. Yet over time, it would become an impressive addition to the neighborhood.