What’s Tree Lopping and When Is It Needed?

Caring for a tree involves a lot of different methods, particularly with older specimens that may start to grow in hazardous or undesirable ways. A lot of these methods revolve around removing parts of the tree, in one form or another, which leads to a lot of confusion as to what distinguishes different procedures.

Lopping is one such procedure, easily confused with other tree management techniques, but what distinguishes it? And how do you tell if your tree needs to be lopped or have something else done to it instead?

What is lopping?

Lopping refers to the selective removal of large side branches from a tree. The removals can be quite extensive, with perhaps all limbs being removed in certain situations. Sometimes lopping also includes shortening or trimming of the tree's trunk to make it grow differently.

How is it different from pruning?

The main difference between lopping and pruning is how much of the tree is removed. Generally, pruning refers to less substantial removals, which is usually done for a slight reshape or to remove smaller amounts of damaged wood.

What about topping?

Where lopping is performed on the side branches of the tree, topping is instead the removal of significant sections of the tree's crown. This may include large branches, sections of trunk or even the entire crown.

When is tree lopping necessary?

Sometimes the reasons behind tree lopping can be as simple as a particular tree blocking a nice view or otherwise causing the landscape to be less attractive than it could be. Lopping can be used to reshape the tree and encourage it to grow in a different shape, completely changing the way it looks and impacting the appearance of its surroundings. It also stops trees from blocking certain features of a garden.

Lopping can also be used to save a tree from dying completely. For instance, if part of a tree has been damaged by wind, a storm or disease, it can be carefully removed in order to keep the rest of the tree healthy. It also minimises the risk of injury to people and damage to property. 

Is lopping a risky procedure?

Some people disagree with the practice, claiming that it damages trees irreparably and can even kill them off. As long as it's done professionally and with care, lopping is safe and effective. It's not something you should attempt to do yourself, as there are many factors at play that can cause unintentional damage. You could also save yourself trouble by hiring a professional if you find out tree removal is necessary as opposed to lopping.