No. Don’t top your live oak or any other hardwood tree such as a black olive or mahogany. A tree sometimes needs to be pruned to avoid interference with utility lines, buildings, or parts of the surrounding environment. Whenever pruning is required, it is important to avoid the practice of topping — the removal of all parts of a tree above a certain height with no consideration for its structure or health. Long thought to reduce a hazard, topping is a temporary and ineffective solution that actually makes a tree more hazardous in the long run.
• Topping “starves” trees by robbing them of their food-creating leaves.
• Topped trees, in an act of defense, create shoots that grow quickly (up to 20 feet in one year) and are more prone to breaking.
• Topping also makes trees more susceptible to insects and disease.
• Topping creates “high maintenance trees” that are expensive to treat, repair, and care for. Hurricane tree-trimming basics for hardwood trees
• Reduction pruning is an effective alternative to topping. It reduces the size of longer branches by cutting back to a lateral branch. 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.
• The best way to learn to manage tree growth and maintain tree health is to consult a Certified Arborist. These tree care professionals know how to safely prune trees, and they can couch you as a homeowner how to best maintain and care for them throughout the year.
Ron von Paulus is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist (ID # Fl- 5770A) and has more than 20 years experience working with trees in South Florida. He offers free consultations to homeowners and businesses. He can be reached at Big Ron’s Tree Service 305-588-3091 or by email at ron@BigRonsTreeService.com