Be kind to your trees - learn proper pruning practices

With the arrival of warmer weather, the City of Richmond is reminding residents of the do’s and don’ts of tree maintenance as we head outside for the gardening season. 

In particular, the City advises against tree topping. Tree-topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs, which leads to a far broader negative impact than just altering the appearance of a tree.

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When done, tree-topping can increase issues with pests, cause sunburn and shock to the tree, and, in the most dire of situations, lead to the starvation and death of the tree.

It can also negatively affect property value, and, on a larger environmental scale, detract from the urban region’s tree canopy, which supports wildlife, provides much-needed shade from the sun and helps maintain proper drainage during heavy rainfall.

Unfortunately, many believe limiting a tree’s height through tree-topping is the correct way to trim a tree.

But, the survival mechanism of crudely topped trees causes them to produce numerous shoots below each cut. The rapid growth of these shoots means that the tree will return to its previous height quickly and even more densely than before.

Tree-topping also often results in large, open pruning wounds that expose the sapwood and heartwood of the tree to infestation. The stress of losing a large amount of wood and greenery can also inhibit the tree’s ability to close its exposed wounds and guard against insects and disease.

In general, proper pruning practices rarely remove more than one-quarter of the leaf-bearing crown or green portions of a tree, which help protect it like an umbrella from the harsh rays and heat of the sun. Topping often removes about half or more of the crown and can weaken the tree through loss of its food-making leaves.

Tree owner resources

For a guide of the correct way to prune trees on your property, and the environmental regulations protecting them, the City of Richmond has a number of information links homeowners can access.  

The topping of trees is prohibited under Richmond’s Tree Protection Bylaw 8057 and can result in fines up to $10,000 per tree.

To learn more about the dangers of decay, insects and disease, shock and sun-scorch to trees that result from topping, read more or consult City of Richmond’s Tree Protection Bylaw 8057.

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