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How to Kill Birch Trees With Copper Nails

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How to Kill Birch Trees With Copper Nails

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Overview

Birch trees are known for their paper-like bark, which may be peeled away from the trunk. The trees have a smooth appearance when young and take on a blackened look as they age. Birches are susceptible to fungus, cankers, borers and leaf miner attacks that can defoliate the tree and lead to slow death. If your tree is in decline, you can cut it down and kill the roots with copper nails.

Step 1

Examine the birch tree to determine the tree’s shape. Birch trees may grow with a single stem or in a clump. If a birch grows in a clump, you will need to remove each trunk individually.

Step 2

Look around the base of the birch and remove any obstacles that may be in the tree’s drop zone. Birch trees may be as much as 50 foot high and 25 foot wide. Remove anything that can be damaged by the tree’s fall in a ring 75 feet around the tree.

Step 3

Measure the size of each birch trunk in the clump. Use a chainsaw to remove each trunk that is larger than 6 inches in diameter. For trunk smaller than 6 inches in diameter, use a hand saw. In this way, the upright trunks do not prevent the felled trunks from falling.

Step 4

Make a wedge-shaped cut near the base of the birch tree’s trunk or stem. This cut should open at a 45-degree angle in the direction that you want the tree to fall, and should only extend one-third of the way through the tree.

Step 5

Make a second cut on the other side of the trunk. This cut should be slightly higher on the tree’s trunk than the first cut. The tree’s trunk will begin to tilt and fall. Step away from the birch as the tree falls.

Step 6

Place the pointed tip of a 3-inch copper spike nail in the center of the cut surface of each trunk of the birch clump. Drive the spike nail into the trunk.

Step 7

Water the tree’s trunk frequently to keep it damp. This will help to oxidize the copper and will also speed the rotting process of the trunk.

Tips and Warnings

  • You can kill a birch tree slowly by simply driving a large copper nail into the trunk of the tree. A copper nail will poison the tree slowly as it oxidizes. Additionally, the wound left by the nail can open the tree to infection. Killing a tree without cutting it down first is dangerous. The dead tree can create a hazard by dropping limbs or falling unexpectedly. Additionally, a person who encounters the copper nail with a chain saw when trying to cut down the tree at a later date may become injured if the saw kicks back due to finding the nail.

Things You'll Need

  • Chainsaw
  • Hammer
  • 3-inch copper spike nail

References

  • Extension: Will Driving Copper Nails into a Tree Trunk Kill the Tree?
  • University of Missouri Extension: Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Betula papyrifera: Paper Birch

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Some Better Known Failures
Keywords: birch tree removal, killing birch trees, copper nails

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."

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