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Name:  Walter
Status:   student
Age:   20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Around 1999  

I have a friend that lives next to a neighbor that has a very large, unsightly and untrimmed pine tree which is growing over his property. The neighbor refuses to trim the tree. My "friend" would prefer that the tree just be removed alltogether. How would one go about finding a proactive method to terminate the life within that tree? I have heard that hammering nails into the trunk can work. I have also heard of special "poisons" you can pour into holes drilled in the tree trunk. Do you have a quick and effective method with which to be assured that a trees life can be brought to a swift and sure end?

One: a very large chain saw. Unfortunately, this "solution" like many of the others you suggested constitute trespassing and malicious vandalism at the very least. You might be able to take your neighbor to small claims court to sue for the costs of cleaning up dropped needles and such, and I think in many cases you can cut anything straight up over the property line (but if your cutting the branch brings down a power or phone line, that's your problem).

Donald Yee Ph.D.
180 Richmond Field Station,
San Francisco Estuary Institute
1325 South 46th St. Richmond, CA 94804

Killing trees isn't very hard, but the methods you mentioned aren't likely to be very successful. The living part of the tree is just under the bark; the heartwood in the center of the trunk is actually long dead.

Whether your friend should kill his neighbor's tree is a matter well beyond Ask-A-Scientist. That's an issue between your friend, his neighbor, the local government, and law enforcement. I really can't recommend starting a chain of reprisals. Good relations with one's neighbors is more important than the appearance of a tree.

A sure (but obvious) way to kill an unwanted tree is to "girdle" it. To do this, you remove a ring of bark and the layer of live wood beneath it. The ring should go all the way around the tree, and be several inches high. This cuts out the water-transport system of the tree, so that it cannot transport water and minerals from the roots so the crown, and cannot move sugars from the leaves to the roots. If the girdle is big enough, the tree will die before the bark and live wood can grow back.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois

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