Killing Pine Trees
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
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.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
Click here to return to the Botany Archives
Update: June 2012