General Question

syz's avatar

How can I covertly kill a tree?

Asked by syz (35938points) 3 weeks ago

My neighbor is a “let nature take its course” person, which means I’m constantly battling back poison ivy, Virginia creeper, invasive English ivy and Japanese honeysuckle that spreads into my yard. I am a “plant native” person who doesn’t use chemicals, but I have a conundrum. In the narrow portion between our two houses, she has let a bundle of volunteer trees grow up, including two sweet gums, which can grow to 75 feet. They’re about 80% on her property, 20% on mine. There are also some “trash trees” that I can’t identify, and they’re all twisted together into a leaning mat, which means they’re going to be unstable and unhealthy. Not only are they shading out my plants, they’re only about 15 feet from my house, which means they’re eventually going to wind up falling on my house. (She has a sweet gum in the back yard that’s a mere 5 feet from her wall.)

I’ve gently suggested that it would be best if they were removed, and I’ve offered to pay to have them removed, and she’s not interested. I’m sorely tempted to use some sort of herbicide to secretly kill them off before they get too big (they’re about 15–20 feet now). Any ideas?

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25 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Man. You can trim anything that’s hanging over your property.

filmfann's avatar

Hire ninjas.

Or you could salt the ground around it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do one tree at a time months apart.

mazingerz88's avatar

I’ll ask my botanist friend.

gondwanalon's avatar

A thick layer of Casoron vegetation killing granules will very likely kill a tree. It gives off a distinctive smell so applying a layer of soil over the top of the Casoron might help stop the smell.

Very powerful stuff. Use it with caution. Wear gloves and eye protection. Also wearing a respirator is a good idea. I seem to be very sensitive to it. I put a light layer of Casoron on a gravel walkway once. I was in the area for a few hours working on a project. Later that night I started vomiting and did dry heaving all the next day. Finally my wife took me to the ER where they gave me an IV and an anti nausea medicine. I was OK again the next day.

Also pay cash for the Casoron so that it can’t be traced back to you in case you’re sued for killing the tree(s).

Good luck.

seawulf575's avatar

An interesting question. Can you covertly kill a tree? Yes. The better question is: what do you do when the dead tree is still standing? It could easily fall as it dies, if you get a big wind at the wrong time.

But, if you are willing to risk it, I’d suggest copper sulfate. The link tells you to get some copper sulfate, cut away some bark (set it aside for later use), drill a hole(s) (bigger the better) downward at an angle towards the center of the tree, pour the copper sulfate into the hole and put the copper sulfate into the hole. Put the piece of bark back over the holes to keep rain out.

Copper is poisonous to plants. CuSO4 (copper sulfate) is often used around drainage tiles to keep tree roots from growing into the cracks between the tiles.

SnipSnip's avatar

Property law is state specific and greatly varies from common law in some states. You can easily look this up for your state. Your question is about whether or not you can covertly kill a tree; my answer addresses whether or not you may do that.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Is there a way to make it plausible that it is affecting your freedom?
Like, is there a nearby power line, cable, or even “fence that needs preserving?”

Rights, are a privilege of being American. If the op is in America, I’ll explain your rights.
Anyone has the right to exercise their freedoms, *as long as it does not hamper another person’s rights.”

Example.
My neighbor has the right to have dogs.
My neighbor does not have the right to infringe up my rights.
So. If they are barking, and that is not something I like, I can pursue legal action.

Nobody has more rights, than anyone else.
When they clash, there is reason for legal action.
Action like a Law Enforcement Officer, speaking with your neighbor and explaining this dynamic.
Then. You keep documentation of occurrences of repeated violations.

In a sensible world, you could just talk with the neighbor, and this would be handled with no problem.
However. People like to make wars, out of such things.

jca2's avatar

I would hire a tree guy to trim anything that’s hanging over your property and to clean up the brush that’s on the edge of your property. That’s about all I would do. If you do something to kill the tree, and the neighbor investigates it and figures out that it was some shady business (pardon the pun), it will ruin the relationship you have with him. Plus, if you kill the tree but the neighbor doesn’t remove the dead tree, and the tree falls on your house, it’s a whole new problem for you and for him.

snowberry's avatar

I’ve heard vinegar poured on the area around the roots will kill weeds and such. You could try that.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Copper sulfate. Get it at Lowes or Home Depot. People use it to kill tree roots crawling into drain pipes. It is cheap and effective.

Smashley's avatar

If they’re just volunteers they don’t care about, I’d quietly girdle them and when they start to die, I’d offer to take them down.

Forever_Free's avatar

Please don’t kill someone elses property for your benefit. There are laws that could get you fined.
If they are on their land then you can only trim what protrudes into your space above the property line.
If they are on the line then typically the law is you both have to agree.
I understand the concern with invasive species. You however can not make someone do something just because you want it.

Even the title of this post turns my stomach. I have served on many Conservation Commissions and Land Trust Boards. I have dealt with this before with people doing things to others property or even harvesting other peoples trees. If it happens, you have made us all accomplises..

Dutchess_III's avatar

What @jca2 said. Also removing what is hanging over your property will make your side lighter so it will fall the other way, onto your neighbor.

gondwanalon's avatar

I actually have to opposite problem with a tree.
It is a massive Big Leaf Maple tree. Its huge trunk is entirely on my property. The tree has what I call a spit trunk. One of the two trunks is leaning towards my neighbor’s house. I’ve had two certified arborists examine the tree. Each has told me that at some point the tree’s trunk could spit and the tree would cause massive damage to my neighbor’s house. The branches of the tree overhang onto my neighbor’s roof.

My neighbors tell me that they love the tree. They do not want it removed or severely trimmed. And they are nice people. I want to keep them happy. So twice I paid to have the tree’s branched cut that over hang their roof ($1,000 each time). Cutting the branches takes some weight off the trunk to make it less likely to split. But the tree keeps growing and the branches are now back over their roof.

I told them that a certified arborist has determined that the tree is dangerous and could split in half and damage their home and recommended at removing the split trunk that is angled at their house. But my neighbor said that the arborist just wants to make money by chopping the tree.

Of course my neighbor didn’t offer to help pay for cost of continued trimming of the tree’s branches.

Lord have mercy!

Forever_Free's avatar

@gondwanalon That’s a tough one. Technically if it is on your property and it hits their house, their insurance is where the claims lands. Unless it has been determined to be in decline and a risk. Then your Insurance is responsible. You can’t keep everyone happy. Protect yourself and doing the trimming is showing good faith. You can simply have them limb it to take as much weight off as possible, it will continue to grow but not look very pretty.
In the end it is your call.
Arborists are not simply a tree company either.
What would your neighbor say if the tides were reversed?? His tree, Arborist stated it is a risk. His risk to your home or his home?

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Yeah. I had a tree from my old house fall on my neighbor’s house.
It was just a tropical storm, but I heard a large crash.
When the rain died down, I went outside to assess the damage.

A tree in my backyard had fallen over/through a fence, and was laying on my neighbor’s house.
I was renting, and had many times talked to property managers about the condition of several of my trees.

I went over, and knocked on the door. I spoke to my neighbor, and we were cool.
We both rented from the same people. We both knew it was a matter of time…

jca2's avatar

From what I understand, if your tree falls on the neighbor’s house or property, it’s considered “an Act of God” and you’re not responsible for it. The only time you’re held responsible for it is if the neighbor had given you written notice (hopefully Certified Mail so he has a receipt that you received it) stating that he believes the tree is a danger, and if you didn’t act upon it, in that case you’re responsible.

jca2's avatar

@Forever_Free Legally, we’re not accomplices to anything.

Furthermore, not everyone who responded said to kill the tree.

seawulf575's avatar

@gondwanalon That is a valid fear. At one point, the people across the street from me had one of those massive maples that actually had split into 3 trunks. One of them was growing towards/over the road. It was a dead end street at that point and we were the only two houses on the road so that wasn’t a concern. When it became interesting was when that branch of the tree broke off in a big storm. It fell down and pinned the phone line to the ground. Pole to ground to pole. It was still attached and didn’t break but was not a good situation. The branch itself was about 2–3 feet thick. Had our houses been closer, it could have done major damage to a dwelling.

Forever_Free's avatar

@jca2 no need to take me any more serious than others.

Pandora's avatar

If you have an HOA you can report it to them. They may have rules about what can be planted. Some cities also have rule about where you can plant stuff. If the trees roots endanger sewage lines to your home or power, you can also maybe report it to the companies if the roots are a possible threat to power lines or water lines or sewage going to your property. In some places electric companies have been known to cut down trees that can interfere with power lines. Seems Virginia is pretty okay with nuisance plants but the city can give them tickets for over growth of things that make their property look like trash.

kritiper's avatar

Salt works wonders sometimes. Don’t get any on her property!!

jca2's avatar

Let us know what you decide and how it turns out, please.

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