View Full Version : Does one topping of a Japanese Maple tree inflict serious damage?
07-05-2008, 05:09 PM
I have 2 in the front yard. Originally, I wanted to stop their
vertical growth because eventually, they'd keep out the sun
in the living room - which is kind of dark as it is.
Recently, from Googling, I learned that successive topping
is very bad for trees in general - Japanese Maples, too.
I had my JM's topped once - last year - and now I worry
that I may have harmed them.
FWIW, they look great right now, maybe 12 feet tall and
so nicely shaped.
07-05-2008, 10:07 PM
Topping is indeed a horrible thing to do to trees. It does weaken them. Here's (http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/nursery/430-458/430-458.html) a good Extension article that explains how to prune without topping. Consult a certified arborist.
If you're dealing with a tree that's growing too tall for your taste, space, or needs, the solution might be taking out the tree and replacing it with something more suitable, rather than trying to force the existing tree to be something contrary to its genetics.
07-05-2008, 10:13 PM
On the other hand, there are very happy 300 year old bonsai Japanese maples that are routinely pruned to be somehing against their genetics.
Topping is a bit brutal is a bit brutal, but with careful consideration and a few choice cuts next winter you can keep the tree from growing too high without such drastic measures.
07-06-2008, 04:14 PM
I had an arborist "top" my trees, and he was very conservative. He did a very nice job of shaping them.
And thinking more about it, I recalled the term "meristematic tissure"from my Botany class in days of olde. This is the growth tissue of plants - trees included. At
"Plants generally grow where meristematic tissue is present. At the tips of roots and stems, the meristematic tissue is called the apical meristem. The primary growth of the plant occurs in the apical meristem."
So, it seems to me the arborist trimmed (or pruned) my Japanese Maples and didn't harm them after all. They're healthy and beautiful.
What I'm trying to say is that with Jap. Mpls., meristem is not isolated to one tip - maybe like an asparagus plant. It;s all over the leafy part (and roots) of a tree.
07-06-2008, 09:53 PM
Sounds like what he did was crown reduction pruning, not the kind of "topping" that mutilates trees by whacking off branches back to stubs. Give him another call. There's a degree to which you can't fight a tree's natural height (bonsai notwithstanding), and he can help you determine your options.
You're right about Japanese maples. They don't generally have a strong vertical "leader."
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