How to Kill Sweetgum Trees

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Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a deciduous tree that grows in the acidic soil of swamps and stream banks in its natural habitat. The tree has a mature height of about 80 feet with distinct, five- to seven-lobed, star-shaped leaves. The dark-green, shiny foliage has lighter undersides. Sweetgum produces inedible spiny fruit containing black seeds. Hardwood lumber from the sweetgum tree is second in demand to oak wood. If you need to get rid of a sweetgum tree from your property, the best way to do it is to kill the tree with a recommended herbicide, according to Ohio State University Extension.

Things You'll Need

  • Axe
  • Glyphosate
  • Select any product with the active ingredient glyphosate to kill the sweetgum tree, as recommended by the Washington State University Extension. Use the undiluted, water soluble formulas instead of esters for better efficacy.

  • Cut down the tree, and make sure that the surface of the stump is smooth and level to keep the herbicide from sliding off.

  • Spray enough herbicide to drench the entire surface of stumps less than 3 inches in diameter. On larger-diameter stumps, treat only the 2 to 3 inches right next to the bark since the heartwood of larger trees is already dead.

  • Treat stump immediately after cutting for best effect. If you were not able to treat right away, make a new cut to expose fresh stump tissues prior to application. The best time to apply glyphosate is during late spring and early summer.

  • Remove dead stump by grinding to a depth of about 1 foot below the soil line. You can pull out stump entirely by wrapping it with a chain and hooking it to a truck or tractor. Stump removal by grinding is preferred over pulling, according to the University of Minnesota Extension.

Tips & Warnings

  • Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that damages all vegetation, including grass, indiscriminately. Use carefully to avoid harming desired plants, and do not spray on windy days in order to minimize drift to non-target areas.

References

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