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How to Cut Down a River Birch Tree

The river birch tree, whose scientific name is Betula nigra, grows freely along streams and rivers in most areas of the United States. This short-lived birch provides protection against soil erosion in these wet areas of the landscape. Although this ornamental tree provides interest in many yards and many homeowners find it attractive, its invasive tendencies eventually create problems in some landscapes. Removing a river birch tree involves carefully cutting down the tree with a chain saw.

Examine your river birch to locate any areas of the tree that require special consideration when felling. Look for loose, dead branches hanging from the tree. Notice whether your tree stands straight or leans to one side or the other.

Determine that the river birch is solid and located away from lines and structures before cutting. Look for open wounds in the trunk of the tree that may signal a rotten or hollow trunk. Avoid cutting a river birch with a hollow trunk. Professional tree cutters possess knowledge and experience for cutting trees in this hazardous condition, as well as for felling trees near power lines or other structures.

Select a day without wind or rain to cut your river birch. Because this variety of tree grows along wet banks, excess moisture in the soil poses a difficulty in maintaining the stable footing necessary for felling trees. Choose a day when the soil is at its driest. Do not cut your river birch when the wind is blowing. Stay safe by waiting for a calm day to cut.

Walk around the birch to decide on the direction in which you want the tree to fall. Consider any nearby rivers or streams when determining the best place for your tree to land. Keep in mind that you must quickly move away from the falling tree. Allow yourself plenty of room to escape.

Place your first cut in the lower trunk of the tree on the side you want the tree to fall. Use a chain saw to form a 90-degree, V-shaped notch near the base of the trunk.

Make a second cut on the opposite side of the tree. Make a single slice on this side, rather than a V cut. Place the slice slightly above the level of the tip of the V cut you previously made on the opposite side of the tree. Cut the slice parallel to the ground. Make the slice deep enough to cut through about one-fourth the diameter of the trunk. Avoid cutting into the opposite notch or at a level below the opposite notch.

Move away from the river birch as soon as it starts to fall. Shut off your saw at the same time. Stand far away until the tree rests securely on the ground. Be aware that cut trees often bounce when hitting the ground. Do not approach the fallen tree before it completes its landing.


Do not cut a tree that leans or contains hollow areas in the trunk. These trees pose an extreme danger and should be cut by professional tree trimmers.

Follow all manufacturer's instructions when operating a chain saw.

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