Topping pine trees

Asked February 2, 2016, 12:06 PM EST

I have a couple rows of 50 foot pines near the powerlines along the road. I'd like to cut the tops off so they don't take down the power lines if they fall. The lower growth is dying off for obvious reasons. I'm wondering if they might die because of how much I'd be cutting off, and how old they are. I'd rather leave them be if that's the case. Thank you for any advice you may have.

Sherburne County Minnesota pine trees

3 Responses

Just to clarify, are these bona fide pine trees? I ask because many people describe any kind of needle bearing tree as a "pine tree", even if they are fir or spruce or hemlock etc.

White pine trees will definitely grow vertically after topping. An existing branch or new shoot will turn into a new leader, and grow pretty fast. You will need to top these trees every couple years, depending on how much clearance there is.

>If these trees are topped off, are they likely to be disfigured or die?

Many people here will consider them disfigured the moment they are topped, although I think a topped pine doesn't look nearly as ridiculous as a topped broadleaf tree, like a maple or oak.
They will not die from such a cut, at least not for a long time. The cut will create a site for possible infection. I'm not aware of any pine diseases that will enter the cut and kill the tree outright, but maybe someone else will chime in. If rot sets in at the site of the cut, that may eventually do the tree in, but I think that would take decades. A more immediate problem is that the new leader will be anchored at or near the site of the rot, and so may be prone to breaking off. Not a huge deal if you don't let the new leaders get too long.

Thanks for the info. There are two Norways and the rest are spruce. Does that really matter?

The Norway pine will probably not establish a new leader but may live for many years. Spruce tree almost always establish new leaders. Tree age is a big factor and young trees respond faster.