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PAL Questions: 1 - Garden Tools:
An issue has come up within our local homeowners association regarding some of the evergreen trees in our common areas. The issue is that about 20 or so trees have "deformed tops" - the tree has grown straight, but in the course of nature, the top has either broken off in a storm, or the tree has grown irregularly, developing a "hook" or "lever" at the top of the tree. This has lead to considerable discussion and (unfortunately) argument within our association. A tree service was hired by our association and they recommended "topping" the evergreens with the "lever" on the top. They stated these "levers" become "sails" in the wind and weaken the trees. One side believes these trees are hazardous and should be topped for safety, the other side believes they should be left as they are.
Searching through resources on the internet has led me to believe that topping these trees is the worst thing that could be done for the future health of the trees, not to mention the effect on property values due to the unsightliness "topping" causes.
I am interested in obtaining any information on the subject and would be open to discussing this with an arborist if possible, preferably someone who is very familiar with northwest evergreens.
You are right to be concerned about topping. The discussion probably should be whether to remove the trees if they pose a true hazard, or leave the trees if they do not pose a hazard. A damaged leader can be remedied, but do not take my word for it! You need a CERTIFIED arborist. If the arborist is hired as a consultant he will not have any incentive to recommend work that is unnecessary (this is why I am suspicious of the tree-service company).
Here are two organizations to contact for referrals:
Plant Amnesty: Plant Amnesty (See also Plant Amnesty's page about topping trees.)
PNW Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (the organization that grants certification) www.pnwisa.org or www.isa-arbor.com
You want someone who has experience with tree hazard evaluation. Another source is Arboriculture by Harris, Clark and Matheny that discusses what to do when a conifer loses its leader.
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January 13 2017 10:35:53