Tree Lopping and Topping is old terminology often used by individuals providing tree services that do not probably have a thorough understanding and  training in arboriculture.  

Arboriculture has moved forward hugely over the past 20-30 years in so many ways, there are numerous companys throughout the UK providing expert professionaly trained tree services and it's not hard to spot the good companys from the potentially bad, if you know what you are looking for! 

The title of this article is a good and easy starting point, "Terminology" the way an individual describes services they are offering. The term "Lopping and Topping" is also used to describe how the Town and Country Planning Act prevents poor pruning practices! thats how bad lopping and topping is for your trees!! see the extract below taken from the Town & Country Planning Act:


"A tree preservation order (TPO) protects individual trees, groups of trees and woodlands. It prevents trees from being lopped, topped, pruned, uprooted or damaged in any way without prior permission from the local authority"  


The Town and Country Planning Act can be used to protect trees from harmful damaging works or complete removal. You should always check with your local planning authority before you start work on a tree in your garden. You can be fined for pruning or removing a protected tree and ignorance is no defence in court! See our other article "Are My Trees Protected".Link To article

When you are looking for a company to provide tree services, ensure you read what services they are offering and how they are wording different services, remember lopping and topping are not good for trees and heres why:


What is Lopping and Topping ?

Lopping and topping is the removal of tree branches or sections of the trunk at any point along main branches or trunk. Pruning is undertaken without any thought as to how the tree might respond and what re-growth will develop.

What’s the main problems with lopping and topping?

A1) Large pruning wounds promotes poor wound response and limits the trees ability to seal the wound effectivley 


Lopping and topping does not take into account the tree's ability to seal wounds after pruning, trees should be pruned back to a branch collar or a suitable growth point to seal a wound sufficiently. Correct pruning techniques promote quick callous growth (Sealing the wound) and retains the network of cells needed to wall off and seal pruning wounds. Removal of large branches, lopping and topping results in a large surface area of open wounding and the tree is often unable to adequately seal the area off from infection and or decay.

The picture below shows the amount of decay that can and usually will develop down the stem after topping has been undertaken.


A2) Weakly attached re-growth after pruning 

Lopping and topping stresses the tree into action, and as a result the tree will produce numerous new shoots of growth in order to compensate for the leaf loss encountered. Often the re-growth is located near the surface of the old poor cuts and are not as strongly attached as a branch naturally grown from an un-pruned branch or properly pruned branch back to a growth point. This weak attachment of growth means new branches are prone to failure, snapping off during high winds, or under mechanical loading such as heavy snow for example.

A3) Tree stress and loss of functioning tissues

Trees need leaves in order to produce food via the process, “photosynthesis”. Lopping and topping can reduce the tree's ability to produce vital food required for health and vigor and can lead to decline in tree vitality, vigor. This physiologically weakens the tree, leaving it susceptible to infection by harmful pathogenic organisms and eventually decay and structural instability.

The loss of branches can also leads to bleeding and excessive water loss, as well as sunburn of the open wounds. At certain times of the year (deciduos trees - trees that lose their leaves) when trees are shutting down for the winter period extensive pruning such as lopping and topping renders the tree unable to store energy required to see it through the winter, as it is using energy reserves putting out new growth if you have prunned the tree hard at the wrong time of the year when the tree is shutting down for the winter period and locking up energy for next years leaf break.  

Very few trees can tolerate extensive pruning, however there are some species of tree that can tolerate extensive pruning more readily than others, such as Eucalyptus for example which is often pollarded.   

A4) Development of decay and subsequent hazards

Lopping and topping can and often will create areas of decay. As the wood is degraded it becomes weaker and is easily broken or dislodged. This can be problematic in areas where there is human traffic such as roads, pavements, gardens and parks. Obviously retaining a declining tree is high use areas or around your home is a risk that will require action and possibly removal of the hazard tree.

 A5) Loss of amenity or feature trees

Lopping and topping permanently destroys any aesthetical value afforded by a tree that had previously provided such beauty or screening before being pruned.


A6) Recurring costs

Due to extensive and dense re-growth caused by lopping and topping, it will often result in more regular and extensive works thereafter. Lopping and topping can actually compound or make worse the original reason that prompted tree pruning in the first place!

If the tree should totally die and collapse, the costs associated with removing or rectifying the problem may be much higher than anticipated - especially if the tree falls and causes serious injury or harm.



How should a professional arborist appear or what should they be wearing as a minimum whilst undertaking their work ? See the picture below: