Nov 022012
 
kill aspen suckers

Our beautiful aspen must go!

This is the sad saga of our efforts to control the suckers from the beautiful aspen tree in our back yard lawn.
We have two gorgeous trees growing in the middle of our back lawn. One is an aspen and the other a birch. This year the aspen decided to multiply via suckers all over the lawn, leaving us with the ugliest lawn ever. The suckers grow way faster than the grass, and they have gone beyond the lawn into the flower and raspberry beds.
It is time to put an end to the aspen suckers.

aspen suckers in lawn

aspen suckers

I asked our neighbor, who is a landscaper, how to best get rid of aspen suckers and he said you should wait until fall when the sap is running back down into the roots, cut the tree down, drill several holes into the stump and pour concentrated herbicide into the holes beginning with twice a week for the first two weeks, then once a week for another four weeks.

kill a quaking aspen

aspen trunk

That’s a lot of herbicide, and we are trying to move away from any non-organic chemical use on our property. However, those suckers must go!
So I waited until fall and was about to chop down the aspen tree when I decided to do a little more research. I saw only one site that mentioned the method suggested by my neighbor, and there is evidence from another neighbor’s stumps that this is common around here (see photo).

I did read several articles on the use of girdling as the best way to kill and aspen tree and control the suckers at the same time. These articles stressed that cutting down an aspen before it has died will immediately result in an explosion of suckers all over your lawn. They also warned about “root grafting” between neighboring trees and the chance that you will kill another tree if you poison an unwanted aspen that has root grafted to it.
It makes me sick to cut down our gorgeous aspen. It is tall and beautiful and shady in summer and flamboyant in autumn. It would make me even sicker to lose both it and the birch standing a couple feet away from it with its roots all entwined with the aspen’s.
So, it’s out with the cutting, drilling, and poisoning method, and in with the girdling method. That means we have to wait until spring when the sap is flowing most heavily to remove a small section of the bark and underlying cambium from the aspen trunk and let it die a slow (two-year) death without multiplying ferociously (if you cut too far into the trunk, you’ll have the same problem as when you cut the tree down, so follow directions in the link carefully).
As for the suckers, they will continue at the present rate. The process for getting rid of those is to cut them as soon as they sprout and dab the cut stem with herbicide (a small amount of herbicide is better than the alternative). Eventually the whole tree system will die off and the sucker problem will go away.
In short, it takes patience to effectively get rid of aspen suckers, and there is no absolutely herbicide-free method of doing so.

Girdling an Aspen

Finally! Spring has sprung, the sap is flowing, the cambium is soft, and our aspen is a gonner!


 

  3 Responses to “How to Kill Aspen Tree Suckers”

  1. Yes indeed! It’s a good thing George Washington didn’t chop down an aspen, or DC would be full of suckers. Oh, wait…

  2. It’s sad to see a tree go, but here’s proof that Aspen have to be controlled sooner than later; did you know that there is a single Aspen stand in Colorado that covers 106 acres, is thousands of years old, and is the heaviest living organism known in the world to date? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree)

    It would not be fun if your backyard made the Guinness Book of Records this way!

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