Inland Northwest residents watched helplessly last November as a devastating ice storm snapped prized trees like uncooked spaghetti.
Now, in their zeal to protect the elms, pines and other trees that survived the storm, many people are doing more harm than good by “topping” them, experts say.
The practice - which includes removing the leafy parts of limbs by cutting them off mid-branch - is harmful, unsightly and unnecessary, members of the Spokane Urban Forestry Board say.
The board launched an educational campaign Tuesday to spread the word that topping trees is bad. As part of the campaign, three Spokane Transit Authority buses are emblazoned with the message “Don’t Top Trees” in tall, red letters.
“Over 10,000 trees have been whacked the wrong way already,” said Marion Severud, a spokeswoman for Spokane Parks and Recreation, which is co-sponsoring the campaign.
Topping results in a weakened tree that is more susceptible to disease and rot because it leaves a scar where mold spores or weather damage can take hold, board members said.
“It’s not just structurally unsound, it’s ugly as all get-out,” said Rich Baker, an arborist and board member.
Topping also doesn’t work as an ice preventive, because most trees will grow more extensive foliage from a limb that’s been cut. That gives ice more places to accumulate and eventually weigh down a tree.
“If you’re topping them to keep them from growing taller, you’re almost accelerating that process,” Severud said.
Experts recommend consulting an expert before cutting branches. People who want to do it themselves should cut dead or dying limbs at the trunk where possible.
For more information about proper tree-pruning techniques, contact the Washington State University Cooperative Extension, 533-2048; U.S. Soil Conservation Service, 353-2120; or Spokane Parks and Recreation, 625-6200.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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