Lopping, as opposed to target pruning, is generally considered poor practice in modern arboriculture. It not only creates a poor tree structure, but it opens the tree to infection, extensive decay and hazardous epicormic growth. (See Figure 1 and Figure 2). Target pruning uses a tree’s natural defence systems to assist with growing over wounds and combating decay (Harris, Clark & Matheny 1999).

Lopping a tree stimulates epicormic growth which is usually a response from stress (i.e. drought, fire, insect attack or a reduction in photosynthetic capacity). Epicormic growth provides rapid energy to a tree in the short-term (Shigo 1991), however; it is the long-term effects of epicormic growth that become problematic.

Epicormic growth is produced from dormant buds that lie beneath the bark of a tree.  This growth does not form part of the tree’s natural structure and, once the resultant branches reach a large size, they can be prone to failure (Shigo 1991).

The canopy of the subject tree is almost entirely epicormic regeneration that has occurred as a response to lopping. The decay associated with the lopped head has spread to the base of the trunk making the tree’s faults unmanageable. This tree has a very high hazard potential and probability of major branch failure in the short term and should be removed as soon as practical.

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