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How to Kill a Silver Birch Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

The silver birch (Betula pendula), a native tree of Russia, Europe and Western Siberia, is commonly referred to as the European white birch. Slender in form with a pyramidal crown, the tree achieves a mature height of up to 50 feet. Its distinct white and flaky bark peels like strips of paper when dry. The light green, triangular, tooth-edged foliage assumes yellow shades in autumn, and the flowers appear in the form of 2-inch drooping catkins. The best way to kill unwanted trees is to use herbicide, recommends the Ohio State University Extension.

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  1. Buy any herbicidal product that contains glyphosate for effectively killing an unwanted tree, as recommended by the Washington State University Extension. Select an undiluted, water-soluble formula, as this has higher efficacy than the esters or oil-soluble formulas.

  2. Cut down the tree to a 2- to 3-foot-tall stump, using a sharp axe. Make sure the stump surface is level and smooth to keep the herbicide from flowing off.

  3. Spray the herbicide on the entire surface of the stump if the stump diameter is 3 inches or less. If the stump diameter is larger, spray only the 2 to 3 inches next to the bark, as the heartwood of larger trees is already dead.

  4. Repeat treatment after seven to 10 days. Avoid the use of glyphosate on very hot days or on trees that are severely stressed by drought. Although you can use the chemical at any time of year, the recommended time is August or September.

  5. Leave the dead stump as it is or use a stump grinder to grind it to about a foot below the soil line. This is the recommended method of stump removal in urban settings, cites the University of Minnesota Extension.

  6. Tip

    A stump grinder is a machine that has a rotating wheel with carbide teeth. When placed on top of the stump, the machine works like a meat grinder, reducing the wood to small chips and sawdust. You can rent a stump grinder at a tool rental company or garden supply store. You can also hire someone to do the job for you.

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Things You'll Need

  • Glyphosate herbicide
  • Axe
  • Stump grinder (optional)

About the Author

Irum Sarfaraz is a freelance writer with over 20 years of nonfiction writing experience in newspaper op-eds and magazine writing, book editing, translating and research writing. Sarfaraz is originally from Pakistan and has been published in both American and Pakistani newspapers and magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, and diplomas in nonfiction writing.

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