By Anupum Pant
Of course, killing a tree is something I’d never want to do. I see them as old and wise people who have grown and matured for years. Plus they give us so much in return. And yet sometimes, they say, there are good reasons to kill a tree. I’ll probably never understand.
Anyway, I thought it’s good to know, just for the sake of knowing that there is an incredibly simple technique that is often used to kill trees (for legit reasons) and is widely known among horticulturists. I learnt about it just today, and I felt it was worth sharing.
It’s called Girdling (also known as ring barking or ring-barking). Or, a technique which involves removal / peeling of a ring of bark from a tree, and the phloem layer (Like shown in the picture above). Yes, that’s it, this kills a tree. And it’s slow death. A tree which gets girdled dies gradually in about a year or more.
This is why it works…
The central part of the tree trunk (wooden part) is involved in taking the nutrients and water up to the leaves. The leaves then get exposed in the sun and mix in carbon dioxide to make sugar and other reduced carbon compounds. Most of us know that. But this is what not many know…
The outer part of the trunk – the bark and the phloem layer – also has a solid function that sustains growth and function. It’s responsible to carry the sugar (and other stuff) made by the leaves, back to the root. That is basically food to sustain growth and function of the roots. If that doesn’t reach the roots, the roots don’t receive what is required for their growth and function. Girdling does exactly that – cuts off the down-flow of food. As a result, the root dies and with it dies the whole tree. All of this happens very slowly.
To be noted
Jumping the Girdle: Some times, trees are able to repair this damage. It’s called a jumped girdle. To prevent that from happening, often smear herbicide over the girdled area.
Better Fruits: This technique is also used by some farmers to force the tree to bear better fruits – as no sugar goes down into the roots – the fruits are usually bigger and better if they come from a girdled tree. Of course these better fruits come with a price.
Girdling is particularly a good way to end trees like Aspens because as we know from Pando, many other Aspens can sprout up from the roots and cause a bigger mess if just the top part of this tree is cut off.
Girdling is a better way to kill a tree because it gives the environment time to adjust, also it is cheaper and prevents damage to the other delicate plants around the tree.
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