How to get rid of Sycamore trees?

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Sycamore or Platanus Occidentalis is a species native to the western hemisphere. It has historically been used as shade trees in cities as Sycamores are able to withstand the city’s atmosphere. This species can grow to massive sizes, the tallest ever measured to be 174 feet. Sycamores can be recognized by their bruised barks which show signs of stretching and tearing quite clearly. There can be a number of reasons why you would want to remove them.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways to remove your Sycamores as well as kill their root system.

How to kill Sycamore trees?

When it comes to killing Sycamores or Platanus Occidentalis trees, you can choose from a variety of options:

  • Foliar Spray
  • Cutting the tree down and treating the stump with Herbicides
  • Gridling or ring barking
  • Basal Bark treatment
  • Injecting the tree with killing chemicals
  • Cut surface treatment

There is no one sure shot method for killing trees, a lot can depend on your preference. If you wish to learn more about the above methods, give this article a read.

The best way to kill a small Sycamore tree

Some methods are preferable for killing small Platanus Occidentalis trees as they are more effective. The Foliar Spray would be one of them.

  • Make sure there is no wind as the chemicals used in this method can get carried away.
  • Use a strong herbicide like Roundup, Ortho or Triclopyr.
  • Spray the foliage of the Sycamore tree with the herbicide.
  • The herbicide will be absorbed by the Sycamore leaves, transported to the roots by the nutrient flow, killing the tree slowly over time.

The most effective season to use this method is summer and spring as the nutrient flow is the highest.

Why do you have to spray the Sycamore beetles with herbicide?

Sycamore beetles can infest the tree, in case the tree dies, beetles will end up falling on nearby property and start growing. While using the foliar spray method, you can also kill a lot of these beetles by spraying some extra herbicide on the branches as well.

Alternative method to kill a small Sycamore

Another method that is suggested for this species is the Basal Bark Treatment. This is because of the bruised exposed bark which you can often find on this species. This makes the absorption of herbicide into the bark much faster compared to other trees.

  1. You should only use this method if the diameter of the tree is less then 6 inches.
  2. You will need a (backpack) sprayer and an oil soluble solution of an herbicide ( use diesel, kerosene or basal oil). You should mix one part herbicide with 4-part oil carrier.
  3. The best option that is comercially availabe you can go for is Triclopyr mentioned above.
  4. Spray the bottom 2-3 feet of the bark with this solution and let it dry out, you can apply another coat to make the process faster.

The best way to kill a big Sycamore tree

Platanus Occidentalis can grow up to be massive. An average mature tree can easily be over 100 feet. Methods such as Foliar Spray would be impossible to use here. In such a situation you have to go for a method that is not only easy but also efficient.

Ringbarking would be the easiest and the most efficient method for killing a large Sycamore or Platanus Occidentalis as removing the bark will stop the nutrient flow from the roots to the stems and the leaves, killing the tree over time.

  1. You will need to either get a hatchet or a saw for this method.
  2. Remove a ring of bark around the entire tree, about 4-8 inches wide.
  3. For extra measure, spray some herbicide along the exposed bark.

You can use this method without using an herbicide but using the herbicide increases the chances of killing the tree successfully.

This method is especially useful if you want to use the Sycamore tree as firewood or for DIY projects later on as the tree will dry standing.

If you are in a hurry, you can simply get the tree cut down and treat the leftover stump with some form of herbicide.

Killing a small Sycamore compared to a big Sycamore – What are the differences?

When it comes to killing Platanus Occidentalis, the difference between a small and a large tree can be huge. The killing time for example can vary a lot, while it may take only a few weeks to kill a small tree, it might take 5-6 months to fully kill a large tree. The post-killing removal process will also be quite complicated if the tree is massive.

Some methods like Foliar Spray will be quite impossible to use with the larger trees. It will not be feasible to spray the foliage of this variety.

Because of the sheer size of Platanus Occidentalis, you can even use two killing techniques in conjunction with one another to speed up the process.

Can you kill a Sycamore without cutting it down?

Sycamore trees can be killed without cutting them down. The preferred methods for doing so would be ringbarking, basal bark treatment, or cut surface treatment. These methods are not only effective but cheap at the same time.

Things to consider while removing a tree on your own

You have to consider the fact that once the tree is dead, it will start decomposing over time and it will fall down in a couple of years.

If you are not experienced with killing or removing trees, it is especially dangerous if the sycamore is located near your house or near power lines.

Hire a professional tree removal service

Hiring a professional when the tree is located near a valuable property makes sense when you think about the entire tree removal procedure. Even if you manage to kill the tree, you will have to arrange to get it cut down, get it transported, and get the stump treated.

If you decide to simply get the tree cut down, you should definitely hire a professional to do it. Cutting down trees is a job for professionals, especially if you don’t have any experience with it.

If you are interested in how much a tree removal service costs, I will publish an article on that soon. (check here)

Frequently Asked Questions

How large can Platanus Occidentalis grow?

The typical size of a Platanus Occidentalis ranges from 80-110 feet in height and 5-6 feet in diameter, but they can potentially grow more than 160 feet in height.

Will you need to take permission to remove Platanus Occidentalis?

Although Platanus Occidentalis don’t come under an endangered species, some specific regions or specific trees have been granted protection as they form an integral part of wildlife ecosystems. It would be a good idea to check with your local authorities before removing the tree.


There are a number of ways of killing Sycamore trees, the easiest method for small trees is considered to be foliar spray while for bigger trees the most effective method would be ringbarking.

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