The practice of tree topping (sometimes called stubbing, tipping, dehorning, pollarding, heading, rounding over or shaping) has been called everything from "misguided" to "the worst thing you can do to a tree."
Property owners may believe that large trees are a hazard, that the tree is too large for the property or that it blocks the view. But websites such as PlantAmnesty.com and TreesAreGood.com list many reasons to avoid the practice, which hurts the tree by opening it up to decay and stressing it by eliminating its food source. It also creates a much worse hazard, because the new shoots that spring up at the cuts grow fast but are prone to breakage.
And, both websites agree, it creates a very ugly tree.
Most cities in St. Charles County discourage topping in their ordinances. Here's a rundown:
- has a Tree Preservation Ordinance that includes the prohibition of the practice of topping trees, and sets fines for any person or firm "engaged in the business or occupation of pruning, treating or removing any public or private tree" that practices topping, with a fine of $500 per offense.
- 's ordinance states that it is unlawful "as a normal practice for any person, firm or City department to top any street tree, park tree or other tree on public property," but they don't prohibit companies from topping other trees. They may also exempt trees that areseverely damaged by storms or other causes, or certain trees under utility wires or other obstructions where other pruning practices are impractical.
- gives guidelines in their ordinances for the selection of trees, and offers lists of preferred trees. Topping is not specifically prohibited, stating only that fully established trees can have lower branches removed "to promote tree structure and facilitate pedestrian and vehicular clearance."
- has a city ordinance similar to Lake Saint Louis' ordinance, which states that city officials "shall have the authority to prevent the topping of any tree on City-owned property or public right-of-way, and to prevent any person working for hire within the corporate limits of the City of St. Peters from topping any tree on publicly or privately owned land." They do not set specific fines, however.
- also forbids topping on city-owned land or public street right-of-ways, and also forbids "any person working for hire to top any tree, whether on private or public land, within the corporate limits of the City." The ordinance only applies for trees in front yards, however, as it provides exceptions for work on trees in the side yard behind the front building line or in the rear yard.