Tree Surgeons of WA have been in operation since 1980, and we’ve developed into one of Western Australia’s leading providers of arboricultural services. We work with the natural and built landscape to promote tree preservation and retention, and there are many ways to accomplish this:
- Tree removal
- High- and low-vegetation management
- Pest and disease management
On this page, we’re going to take a closer look at a specific type of tree-management term – ‘tree lopping’. As you’ll see, there are many different approaches to tree lopping, and not all of them have the best interests of your flora in mind. But under the expert guidance of Tree Surgeons of WA, your trees will enjoy long and healthy lives.
Let’s begin by exploring the actual industry definition of tree lopping, after which we’ll take a look at a few specialised practices that are more advisable for the trees of WA.
What Is Tree Lopping?
In strict industry terms, tree lopping refers to the practice of cutting off branches of a tree, as well as cutting off the stems between branch unions. This is how tree lopping was defined in the ACT Tree Protection Act of 2005. And it should be noted that this type of tree-management practice was prohibited by the same act.
The overarching industry alternative to tree lopping is pruning, through which branches are cut back to a branch union or a fork. Pruning sets the tree up for greater success down the road than lopping does. We’ll discuss that issue in greater later in the article. But for the time being, suffice it to say that true tree lopping is a practice that arborists are trained to avoid, as it can be detrimental to the tree’s health.
When branches are aggressively cut back and removed, as they are during the process of tree lopping, far too many of the tree’s leaves are removed. These leaves are the trees’ primary food source – as they convert the sun’s light into energy that can be stored as carbohydrates and starches.
When such a high number of leaves are removed all in one go, the tree is forced to dig into its reserves. Trees maintain a reserve store for events just like this. But these are emergency stores, and the tree doesn’t always survive. If it was already under duress at the time of the lopping, these finite stores could end up being depleted, and the tree will die.
Even if the tree survives being topped, it will have to grow a new shell of wood to surround its now dysfunctional core. This can cause problems, as the new growth is not going to be as stable as it could’ve been. New branches that grow from this section will be attached to that new shell, but with no firm attachment to the original core. This creates unsafe conditions that can result in unstable connections and even decaying wood at the site of the wound.
When Is Tree Lopping an Acceptable Practice?
As we’ve already mentioned, tree lopping is a largely inadvisable practice. In most cases, the tree should be more selectively pruned in order to promote stable, future growth. However, there are two extremely specialised forms of tree lopping that arborists like the Tree Surgeons of WA are able to carry out. Both of these specialised practices promote the long-term health of the tree.
These two specialised forms of tree lopping are known as hedging and pollarding. We’ll take a close look at both below.
When you consider the actual process of trimming hedges, you’ll find that it is essentially the same as tree lopping. Branches are cut aggressively and indiscriminately, and the cuts come between branch unions. Hedges that are trimmed in this manner are technically being ‘lopped’.The difference is partially a matter of scale. Hedges are much smaller than trees, and their branches aren’t nearly as heavy. However, they do grow and regrow through the same processes as large trees. Their branches are woody and rigid, and their recovery methods are fundamentally the same as those of a tree.Hedges are kept as ornamental plants for landscaping purposes, and weak unions between branches is not a serious issue for property owners. Furthermore, hedges are routinely trimmed and cut back, preventing new shoots from growing out of control and bringing entire branch sections down. This is why lopping remains an acceptable practice on this scale.
Pollarding is a specialised form of tree pruning in which regrowth is cut back at a regular interval – usually every one to two years. Pollarding allows the new growth to properly take hold and form a strong union with the remaining branch or union without falling under its own weight in the process.Pollarding is best used with younger trees under very specific circumstances. These trees need to be specially selected by a professional arborist, and consistent pruning needs to occur over the next several years. Pollarding can also be used to manage the risk of a tree that has already been improperly lopped.It’s worth noting that this form of tree maintenance is technically prohibited under the ACT Tree Protection Act, although it’s commonly practised. In fact, there are many trees being pollarded on public land in Canberra – paid for by public funds and done in direct disregard of the Tree Protection Act. Under very specific circumstances, this form of tree lopping is advisable.
What Are the Alternatives to Tree Lopping?
In its truest sense, tree lopping is detrimental to the tree’s health. But there are alternative measures that can be taken if the maintenance of a particular tree is proving to be difficult.
First of all, it’s important to understand that the size of a mature tree is hard-coded in its DNA. Regardless of how many times you cut it back, it’s going to try growing to its ‘correct’ size. If the tree is currently under its regulated size, then consistent pruning can help keep it manageable. This process needs to begin from a young age.
Otherwise, you may need to consider tree removal. This is a drastic measure, but it may be advisable depending on the overall size of your green space.
The professionals at Tree Surgeons of WA are experts in greenspace maintenance. We’ll help you choose the best course of action for the trees on your property. Contact us today to learn more.