Cutting back the top of an overgrown tree, often referred to as topping, heading, or tipping it, harms the tree and increases the risk of future damage. In addition to the unsightly result, cutting off the crown stresses a tree. The leaves at the top that take in sunlight and food are gone, the wound where the branches were cut provides a point of entry for insects and diseases, and the new shoots that grow at the top are weak and likely to break off in windy or icy conditions. Property value decreases because of the ugly stubs left behind. There’s also the expense involved as more pruning will be needed, and if the tree dies, it will have to be removed.
Instead of topping, if pruning is needed, hire a certified arborist to remove dead wood and reduce wind load and snow load through structural pruning. Or it may be necessary to remove the tree and plant a species that is more appropriate.
For more information, see Purdue University’s bulletin, What’s Wrong with Topping Trees?
See West Lafayette’s Tree Manual and Guide to the West Lafayette Landscape Ordinance