Will Copper Nails Kill A Tree?


Can you kill a tree with copper nails? The answer is yes, but only when you do it correctly.

Many homeowners have trees in their yard that are an eyesore or cause a mess, but the cost or their location makes them difficult to cut down.

Using copper nails to slowly poison and kill the tree will make removing it from your property much more manageable.

To learn more about copper’s effect on trees and the best steps to killing a tree with copper nails, you only need to read and follow the guide below, so let’s begin!

Does Copper Kill Trees?

Copper can kill plants, including trees, if there is enough contact between the copper and the plant cells.

Most people find driving copper nails into a tree is much cleaner and easier than drilling holes and pouring in sulfate to kill off a tree.

Copper damages the tree cells enough to prevent them from working properly, which keeps fluids and nutrients flowing through the tree’s roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. This reaction leads to the leaves turning brown and stopping the critical photosynthesis process that any plant needs to survive.

How copper damages cells is through oxidation. This process is when copper material reacts with moisture and oxygen inside the tree trunk, making compounds like CuO, CuO₂, Cu₂O, and Cu₂O₃.

These resulting chemicals are toxic and severely damage the tree’s growth cells. After several weeks or months, the copper toxicity will eventually kill off the tree.

Can Copper Nails Kill A Tree?

Many people claim it’s a myth you can kill a tree using copper nails, but this is false.

The damaging effects of copper on a tree’s roots, bark, growth cells, and leaves combine to ruin its ability to uptake and move nutrients through the trunk and branches and leaves to provide photosynthesis.

The issue is that most people think you can pound a single nail in any part of a tree trunk or tree stump, and it will magically die within a month. But unfortunately, one nail will not kill even a small tree, so trying this with a big tree will not work.

The truth is that you’ll need to use many copper nails to cause a tree to die.

In addition, you’ll also need to place the nails in the correct location on the tree as well as ensure they are deep enough to penetrate through the outer bark and into the phloem and the cambium cell layer, which grows new bark and moves nutrients up and down the tree.

Another reason you may not have success killing a tree with copper nails is that the tree is just too large. Either the nails don’t penetrate the inner bark, or they aren’t plentiful enough to damage enough growth cells to kill the tree.

Most experts suggest using copper nails on trees with trunks no more than 6-8 inches in diameter for the quickest results. However, if you correctly insert copper nails into the trunk of a large tree, it could take a year or longer for it to die.

How Many Copper Nails To Kill A Tree

long copper nails

If you’re looking to kill a tree with copper nails, you’ll need to purchase the correct size and amount to get the job done.

Measure the circumference of the tree as close to the base of the trunk as possible. You’ll need enough copper nails to place one every half-inch around the tree trunk.

For example, a tree with a 20-inch circumference will need about 40 copper nails. Make sure you purchase pure copper nails or spikes and not a product that is only copper plated.

You’ll need the nails to be at least three inches long for most tree sizes, but more length is better as it imparts more copper into the tree that will oxidize and create damage.

A thicker copper nail is also better than a thin one.

Steps To Kill A Tree Using Copper Nails

Follow these easy steps to use copper nails to kill trees on your property that are causing you issues:

Step 1: Hammer Nails Into The Tree

Start as close to the tree’s base as possible, and pound in copper nails every half-inch until you circle the entire trunk. Then, if you have enough nails, feel free to move up about a foot and repeat another circle of copper nails.

By placing nails at the base of the trunk, you’re putting the damage of the oxidizing copper closer to the root system, which will hasten the death of the tree.

Step 2: Have Patience

It can take anywhere from two months to a couple of years for a tree to die from copper toxicity. So, the more copper you can get into the tree, the faster you’ll see the results.

If you don’t like your tree’s appearance with the copper nails embedded, you can paint over the tops of the nailheads. Choosing a tan or grey paint color will make the nails blend in with the trunk.

Step 3: Use Caution When Removing The Dead Tree

Never use a chainsaw on a tree you killed using copper nails until you mark where the nails are so you can avoid them. If you hit the nails with powerful tools, they can shoot out and cause injury or even death to the person working the equipment.

It isn’t uncommon for tree bark to grow over nail heads, which can make them hard to find and remove after the tree is dead, so make a note of where you put nails so you can stay clear of that portion of the tree when it’s time to cut it down and remove it.

Do Copper Nails Kill Tree Stumps?

nail in tree stump

If you have a tree stump that wants to keep regrowing, pounding it with long copper nails or spikes will cause it to die out and rot away.

The process can take several weeks to months to occur, and you’ll want to use the same technique of placing nails close together in a circle around the stump.

Another tactic to kill a tree stump is to use copper sulfate. You can go around the stump base, drilling holes at a downward angle as deep and as wide as you can. A 1/2 to 1-inch drill bit that is six inches long is a good size for this method.

Drill holes around the stump every three inches. Using a funnel, fill each drill hole with copper sulfate.

To cover the copper sulfate so rain doesn’t wash it away, pack the top of the hole with mud or candle wax.

Another great tip to help speed up the death of a tree stump is to pound several copper pipe sections into the ground around the roots near the tree’s base.

With copper nails in the trunk and copper pipe in the ground, you’re adding more stress that will stunt cell reproduction and growth, so the tree dies faster.

In Summary

Will copper nails kill a tree? Yes, copper nails can inhibit the function of tree development and damage roots, leaves, cells, and stems, leading to eventual death.

However, using copper nails to kill trees is best for smaller trunks, and you must use enough nails in the proper position for them to be effective.

I hope using the tips above helps you master killing trees with copper nails, so you can easily eliminate the ones causing problems in your yard!

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