Chemicals for killing an oak tree

Updated November 21, 2016

Oak trees are a common deciduous tree found throughout the UK. Oaks have large leaves that are a staple of autumn foliage displays and produce a large volume of acorns. Acorns are an important food source for wildlife, which in turn distribute oak tree seeds in locations far away from the parent plant. As a result, oak trees can appear in unlikely and unwanted locations in your home landscape. You can remove oak trees from your property in several ways with chemical herbicides.

Girdling oak trees

Large oak trees are best killed by a combination of physical wounds and herbicide application. Girdling is the process of removing the bark around the base of the tree and exposing the vascular tissue. Girdling disrupts the nutrient transportation processes in the tree and enhances the effects of a herbicides. Spray herbicides on the exposed wood as soon as possible after girdling the oak tree for best results.

Cut stump

Even if you fell an unwanted oak tree on your property, the plant may not completely die. Many oak trees have vigorous, extensive root systems that will continue to fuel new sprouts from stump of the tree. Chemical herbicide will help kill the root system and allow natural process to begin decomposing the stump. When killing stumps with chemical herbicides it is best to make a fresh cut across the stump to expose as much fresh wood as possible. Quickly apply chemical herbicides as soon as you make the cut in the stump to increase the effectiveness of the herbicides.


2,4-D is the active chemical in a number of popular herbicides labelled for wood tree removal. The chemical comes in a water-based solution or an oil-based solution. Both can be used effective in oak trees when combined with girdling or cut stumps.


Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is also sold in concentrated forms at most farm suppliers for woody brush removal. The concentrate is highly effective when applied to exposed wood of oak trees. Glyphosate can also be applied sprayed on the foliage of oak trees, but because it is a non-selective herbicide it may cause damage to surrounding plants due to wind drift.


Triclopyr comes in several forms -- Triclopyr amine and Triclopyr ester -- and is the active ingredient in many popular herbicides. Triclopyr works well for killing unwanted oak trees when applied as foliar spray or when applied to girdled and cut stump exposures. It is most commonly sold as water-soluble sprays which makes it easy to apply to only the desired areas on oak trees and prevent unintended damage to surrounding plants.

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