Why would you want to kill a tree?

What is girdling? When I first heard the term a long time ago, I thought it had to do with woman’s clothing apparel. Of course, I learned and I now know that girdling is a forest improvement practice of cutting off a tree’s “blood flow” in order to end the tree’s life.

But why?

The main reasons for performing this exercise is to eliminate undesired species, like those with crooked trunks or having low long-term monetary value in the future.
One might think, why kill trees at all. Well, it’s like getting ride of weeds in your garden. If you don’t get rid of the weeds, the vegetables you want, won’t flourish.
The girdling or cutting of the tree is accomplished by encircling the trunk around 3 or 4 feet above the ground with a chainsaw all the way around at least once, but better is twice. The cut lines will need to be in the bark about 2 inches.
The end result should be total suppression of sap flowing up the cambium layer, or for us regular folks, the blood veins of the tree.
Landowners can later return to glean the standing firewood or let the tree eventually fall to the ground and rot away.

Nature’s ‘girdles.’

Wild grape vines are another method of girdling in woodlands. These devils do a good job of fully engulfing a live tree. In time, they choke out the sunlight from a host tree with their own leaves and a slow death is in store.
Woodland managers who enjoy wildlife should know the grape vines do provide a food source in the form of grapes for wildlife. I guess the vines can give life and also take it away.

Girdling the vines.

Girdling of grape vines is generally done very close to the ground, but with these vines you completely sever the main trunk.
Our host for an upcoming field day, Dave Heath, said if you cut them off about head high you can see them easier and quickly determine where you have been working. I agree — it’s easier to tell where you had cut grape vines versus those cut near the ground.

Still need herbicide.

After cutting the main trunk of the grape vines, the roots are still capable of growing again. This is where applying an approved herbicide material to the surface of the cut vine is critical for control. Otherwise, they will regrow and continue on their merry way.

Field day.

To learn more about this practice and others, and programs to help woodland owners, we are holding a forestry field day Oct. 2 in Medina County at the Heath Farm, located at the corner of West Smith Road and Erhart Road in Lafayette Township about 6 miles west of downtown Medina.
The event is set from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Pre-registration is required, and includes lunch. Contact our office at 330-722-2628 ext. 3 for directions and registering.
Speakers will be John Jolliff, ODNR service forester, and Frank Luppino, private forestry consultant. Note: This will be a walking event (no wagon rides).
There will also be vendors on-site.

About the Author

Jeff is the District Manager for the Medina SWCD since 2006. Before that he was an area representative with the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation through out Northeast Ohio for most of his career. He worked closely with District Boards of Supervisors and staffs on programs and capacity building. More Stories by Jeff Van Loon

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