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A Quick Guide to Killing Sycamore Trees

A Quick Guide to Killing Sycamore Trees

Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) are one of the largest hardwood species in existence, offering much-needed afternoon shade in most backyards. They typically grow between 70 to 100 feet tall and spread as much as 15 feet wide. 

Due to their large stature, removing sycamore trees can initially seem intimidating. But the good news is that removing them is not impossible! 

This article lists all the best and most effective ways to remove sycamore trees in your backyard. Read on to learn more!

How to Kill Sycamore Trees

How to Kill Sycamore Trees
Image: Love to Know

1. Cut Surface Treatment

Cut Surface Treatment
Image: Pursuing Outdoors
DifficultyAverage ●●○○○
Duration1 to 4 hours
Things You Need• Ax or hatchet

• Herbicide

The cut surface treatment aims to create a pathway through the tree’s bark so that herbicide can be absorbed directly by the plant’s vascular tissue. 

However, this method is not recommended during spring when sap flows from the sycamore tree and prevents the wounded bark from effectively absorbing the herbicide.

How To Do
1. Make deep gashes or downward cuts around the tree’s circumference using an ax or hatchet.
2. Pour herbicide onto the gashes until it is fully absorbed. 

2. Chemical Injection

Chemical Injection
Image: Maryland Grows
DifficultyAverage ●●○○○
Duration1 to 2 hours
Things You Need

• Drill

• Herbicide

With the chemical injection method, we’ll have to drill holes and pour herbicide to kill the sycamore tree. This is most effective for large trees. 

For optimum results, drill holes 1.5 inches or more in diameter at chest height. 

How To Do
1. Drill 2 to 3-inch deep holes around the tree’s roots, base and trunk. 
2. Fill these holes with herbicide until the tree absorbs all the chemicals. 
3. Repeat these steps every week until you see drying out, withering or other signs that the tree is dying. 

3. Basal Bark Treatment

Basal Bark Treatment
DifficultyAverage ●●○○○
Duration1 to 2 hours
Things You Need
• Backpack Sprayer

• Herbicide

• Oil-based solvent

The basal bark treatment is most effective for trees with smaller trunks – around 6 inches in diameter.

This method involves saturating the bottom part of the tree with the herbicide-solvent solution, which makes it easier and faster for the tree to absorb the chemicals.

Ideally, you will first mix an oil-based solvent with herbicide to create the solution that you will spray over the tree’s bark. 

It’s best to use herbicides with Trycloper or Trycloper Ester as the main ingredient, while you can use diesel, kerosene, fuel oil or basal oil as a solvent. 

You can apply the treatment most times of the year except during extreme rainy seasons when the stem surfaces are saturated with water or snow, which prevents spraying on the ground line. 

How To Do
1. Mix 1 part herbicide and 4 parts solvent in a container to get 20 to 25% concentration. 
2. Pour the solution into the backpack sprayer.
3. Make sure that the tree is dry. Remove flaky barks if there are any. 
4. Spray the solution at the bottom 20 to 24 inches of the tree and wait for it to dry.
5. Apply another coat of the solution to speed up the process. 

4. Ring Barking

Ring Barking
DifficultyAverage ●●○○○
Duration1 to 4 hours
Things You Need

• Hatchet

• Chainsaw

• Backpack sprayer

• Herbicide

When killing large sycamore trees (100 feet and above), ring barking is an easy and effective method. Removing the bark stops the nutrient flow from the roots to the leaves and stems of the tree. 

It’s essential to remove the ring of Phloem from the bark. This Phloem transports amino acids and sugars from the leaves to other parts of the tree, so without it, the roots will starve and kill the tree altogether. 

This method can be applied without herbicide, but adding herbicide can speed up the tree’s death. You can also remove the tree’s bark before spring to prevent new growth from emerging. 

How To Do
1. Remove a ring of the bark, about 4 to 8 inches wide, around the entire tree. 
2. Spray herbicide on the exposed bark. 

5. Foliar Spray Method

Foliar Spray Method
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration1 to 2 hours
Things You Need
• Protective gear

• Backpack sprayer

• Herbicide

The Foliar Spray method involves applying herbicide over the leaves of the tree. As the leaves absorb the herbicide, the chemicals are transported to the roots, killing the tree slowly through time. 

It’s best to use potent herbicides like Triclopys, Ortho or Roundup when dealing with sycamore trees. This method is most effective when done during summer and spring because the nutrient flow is highest at these times. 

Make sure also to wear protective gear and that there’s no wind before spraying the herbicide to prevent damaging nearby plants and trees.

How To Do
1. Wear protective gear. 
2. Pour the herbicide on the backpack sprayer.
3. Spray the herbicide on all the tree’s angles and leaves.

Best Method to Kill Sycamore Trees by Size

Best Method to Kill Sycamore Trees by Size
Image: Arbor Day Foundation
SizeRecommended Method/s
Small (40 to 75 feet tall)• Foliar Spray Method

• Basal Bark Treatment
Large (75 to 100 feet tall)• Ring Barking

• Chemical Injection 

Sycamore trees are naturally large, so you might have to apply different methods for removal depending on their size. 

For small-sized trees, it’s more effective to use the foliar spray and basal bark treatments. These methods will approximately kill a tree within a few weeks. 

Large sycamore trees are best removed through ring barking and chemical injection because they target the vascular tissues without reaching the topmost part of the tree. It takes 5 to 6 months to kill a large tree entirely. 

But there’s no limit on how many tree removal methods you can apply to your sycamore tree. In fact, you can mix 1 or 2 techniques to speed up the removal process.

How to Deal with a Sycamore Tree Stump

How to Deal with a Sycamore Tree Stump
Image: Dallas News.
DifficultyAverage ●●○○○
Duration1 to 4 hours
Things You Need

• Drill

• Herbicide

• Stump grinder

• Water

• Soil

After killing the sycamore tree, you’ll likely still have to remove its tree stump and new sprouts that may grow on it. You can remove it by using a stump grinder or rotting the tree stump. 

Here’s how you can rot the remaining sycamore tree stump

How To Do
1. Drill holes on the top and sides of the tree stump. 
2. Fill these holes with a herbicide and dissolve them with water.
3. Cover the tree stump with a mound of soil to start the decaying process.
4. After 4 to 6 weeks, remove the rotten stump using a stump grinder to dig out its roots completely.

FAQs on Killing Sycamore Trees

How large can a sycamore tree grow?

A sycamore tree can grow up to 160 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

How long does a sycamore tree live?

A sycamore tree lives around 75 to 200 years. It can even reach 500 years and above when grown in warm and moderate climates, moist and well-drained soil, and with adequate water sources.

What insects or diseases kill sycamore trees?

The common pests and diseases that cause sycamore tree deaths are aphids, verticillium wilt, anthracnose, bacterial wet wood and canker rot.

Will salt kill a sycamore tree?

Excessive amounts of salt, absorbed through leaves or the soil, will kill a sycamore tree. Salt kills the tree’s roots and prevents water and other nutrients from being transported to other parts of the plant.

Will ivy kill a sycamore tree?

English ivy can kill sycamore trees by adding weight that increases the breakage of its branches. It also adds shade to the tree’s canopy, which blocks photosynthesis and increases the sycamore’s risk of contracting plant diseases.

Will copper nails kill a sycamore tree?

Copper nails kill sycamore trees through the Ring Barking method. By driving copper nails into the tree’s circumference, the nutrients are prevented from traveling within the plant, causing starvation and eventual death of the sycamore tree.

Will bleach kill a sycamore tree?

Bleach cannot kill a sycamore tree because it already has a high alkaline content which can only slow down its growth but not cause death.

Can you kill sycamore without cutting it down?

Sycamore trees can die without cutting it down through Ring Barking, Basal Bark or Cut Surface treatments.

Why do you have to spray sycamore beetles with herbicide?

Sycamore beetles infest the tree and the nearby properties. Spraying herbicide on the leaves and branches of the tree effectively kills them and prevents further pest infestation in the garden.

Will you need permission to remove a sycamore tree?

Permission is needed when removing sycamore trees in areas where it has been classified as heritage or protected tree. Some states that regulate sycamore tree removal are California, Virginia, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Georgia.

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