That pesky elm tree sprout crowding your apple tree - copper nails

You know that pesky elm sprout that keeps sprouting up every time you cut it down and crowding your apple tree? You can’t use tordon because it will kill your apple tree. Has anyone ever used copper nails to kill trees? I’m planning to

I read about copper killing tree stumps here. I had my husband buy me a piece of copper tubing two feet by half an inch. He pounded it three or four inches into a Krymsk rootstock stump and it died over the winter. It also killed the unwanted suckers appearing everywhere! Worked really well.


I’ve used copper roofing nails with good results on ash.

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Found a black locust tree on my property half dead and on closer examination look what I found

Yes those are Copper jacketed bullet slugs. This property turns up plenty of empty cartridges , slugs, horse drawn gear etc. these relics from the past are likely not as old as some based on the style. I suspect I now know how a lot of the old raccoon den trees were made. Someone target shooting and that portion of the tree dies and rots away. I pulled these slugs out of the rotten wood. You learn something new all the time. There was water here in old days and still is now so there is history in a place like this. This is an artifact left that was once someone’s dreams
What’s left of that old pump was just one of several artifacts that I found close to the pond. The water hole there is very old. Copper from time to time turns up here because it lasts longer than the old lead slugs.


I love old stuff. My family has 3 homesteads that we settled. So there are always interesting things to fine. Some people see junk, I see as you said someone else’s dream, someone else’s life through those items.


Its really neat seeing the last 2 posts and their thoughts on old homesteads. My parents have about 100 acre tract of land up on a mountain that even today is out in the middle of nowhere. Way back on that land is an old hand-built chimney made of stones and you can sort of figure out by other stacked stones that the house (wood is long gone) was very small. The only piece of flat land on the whole mountain is just about 1/4th of an acre and is undoubtedly where their garden was. Amazingly, there is still a stand of daffodils and they sort of line the path from an old logging trail up to the home place. There are a few almost-rusted away implements around and even a little area that was probably their private dump (glass, etc can be found).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood there and thought about who may have lived there, what their life was like, how they came to live there, why they left or if they died there, whether they have any living descendants. It also usually makes me feel a little pessimistic and small- it reminds me that people-most likely an entire family- likely lived much or all of their lives on that little homestead in the middle of nowhere and in some ways their lives are unknown to me and the rest of the world and in some ways didn’t matter. WHich of course forces me to ask whether 100 years from now anyone will know or care about my life, my fruit orchard, my life and struggles and triumphs. Just as @clarkinks and @TurkeyCreekTrees just said and showed, they had their own dreams and their own belongings and so on, and in many ways the only thing left is an old chimney.
Sorry to get so off-track to the thread and the site…but seeing and hearing the two prior posts just touched a cord that I could tell we all 3 had in common and probably many others here so I wanted comment.


I know this thread is not the normal material, but in away it is related. Especially in terms of heirloom varieties, you can look at a tree and relate to what someone else saw and tasted so many years ago that made it worthwhile to them. When someone asks me to graft a new tree from a very old one its apparent they appreciate the history of that tree and want its history to continue on.

One thing that makes my heart happy is that my 18 year old daughter has the developed the same love for our families history. She can hold something old and see the value of it not in dollars but in something much more valuable.


This could be a thread all its own and I too appreciate the photographs. My orchard is on what was the beginning of the ice pond and ice house for the island back in the 1600’s. What I have dug up is amazing. From old bottles to broken china, all pieces tell a story. I love it! Thanks clarkinks!

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Why not get a bottle of Roundup and a foam paintbrush and brush it on the leaves as the elm resprouts?

Worked wonders for me with a mulberry growing through a blue spruce that refused to die after being cut back. It wasn’t even strong roundup… just the pre-diluted stuff in a spray bottle.


Normally I would use this but I had fruit trees close by. Roundup might be a workable option but I don’t want to get the good tree with the bad ones.


I’ve not tried copper nails to kill trees/stumps. I’ve read a lot of home type remedies for killing trees and many of them probably work. Dumping salt on a stump seems like it would be lethal to me.

I googled the copper nail thing. Some people claimed it worked, but most seemed to indicate it was a “wives tale”.

The Amazon link above seems to be just some guy buying copper nails and reselling them as a supposed tree killer. However in his description he says to pound the copper nails every 1/2" around the tree.

If one thinks about it, that’s really close proximity and disrupting a lot of xylem and cambium tissue. Given that copper is somewhat phytotoxic to local tissues, that may work.

However, I don’t think a few copper bullets or a few nails would kill a tree. I’ve shot dozens of copper jacketed bullets into trees before with seemingly no effect.

As you know trees do occasionally die as a matter of course, so it might be difficult to draw a linkage of copper/fatality from the bullets you retrieved.

There could be some variation of susc. of copper damage in different species of trees. It’s well known some trees are more susc. to copper damage (at least in the foliage) than others.

I also think it’s possible cutting a tree down could possibly make the tree more susc. to copper nails (i.e. kill the stump).

Cutting a tree down is pretty stressful to some species. For example, large peach and cedar will rarely grow back if sawn to the ground. The stress of cutting the tree down, might increase the susc. of copper, particularly if it was nailed in the phloem. Bushhogging a tree is even more stressful. I’ve bushhogged a lot of trees. It shatters the stump, and most trees won’t grow back.

I’ve also used pure roundup or tordon to kill trees. Supposedly sometimes this can kill trees nearby if the roots have grafted together, so one should probably be careful with this method, especially w/ tordon.

As an aside, I’ve also used a small amount of tordon to kill woody type seedlings around some fruit trees at the farm and not seen any damage. As you know Tordon does have “carryover” but it takes a lot in the ground to kill trees.

Here’s what a prof. of plant sciences had to say about the subject of copper nails:

"TO UNDERSTAND the potential impact of embedding a poece of copper in
a tree trunk on the long term health of the tree, some basic plant
physiology and chemistry needs to be considered. In order to kill a
tree, a toxin must interfere with cell division in the regions from
which a tree grows - root and shoot tips and the cambium, a ring of
dividing cells inthe stem and roots. In addition, inhibition of a vital
process such as photosynthesis will have a similar deleterious effect.
Implanting a piece of copper in a tree trunk will only affect such vital
processes if the copper is transported from the implant to the roots
and shoots. There are two routes that copper could take. The first is in
the xylem, the woody tissue that forms the bulk of the tree trunk
(wood) but also forms the main transport route for water from the soil,
via the roots to the leaves. Movement here is controlled by the rate of
water loss from the leaf and this process is regulated by stomata on the
under surface of the leaf. Materials move passively with the flow of
water, although those with a positive charge will fix to negative
charged sites in the walls of the xylem tissues. The phloem tissue
(bark) is highly specialised and is responsible for transport of
products of photosynthesis from leaves to shoots and roots. It can
rapidly seal off any injured tissues. Copper from an implant would need
to dissolve before it could move to roots or shoots and affect plant
vitality. The pH of the phloem and xylem sap is slightly acidic (pH 5 -
6) so some copper would slowly dissolve. Copper binds preferentially to
the xylem tissue and shows limited mobility as a cation. It readily
forms stable organic complexes with small molecules such as amino acids
and appears to move through the xylem in this form. These complexes are
very stable and may not dissociate at the end of the transport pathway.
If so, these will not easily pass across biological membranes and
inhibit metabolic activity. Copper movement from leaves, via the phloem
is very slow so the redistribution via this tissue from an implant would
also be slow. The slow rate of copper release from a metallic implant
would be unlikely to cause significant problems for a healthy tree. As
the main route to living tissue would be via the xylem, the patterns of
water movement within a tree would also be important in the subsequent
transport of copper. These vary with tree species - in some water
ascends straight up whilst in others, water movement occurs in a spiral
of verying pitch. Several implants would be required to make certain
that all parts of the tree crown were reached by copper. In conclusion, I
would consider it unlikely that a single copper implant would prove
fatal to a healthy tree; an old or already debilitated tree may prove to
be more susceptible.

(Professor) Nicholas W Lepp, Professor of Plant Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool ("

While I think it’s perhaps possible copper nails driven every 1/2" around a tree might prove lethal, I suspect anything much less would have little impact on most trees.

As you know, there are lots of “leaps” and exaggerations made in horticulture. I thought the one below rather humorous. The person claimed copper nails kill trees because the copper turns into “arsenic”. Now that would be quite a feat of alchemy!

BTW, love your “find” close to the pond. Interesting what people leave behind. At the farm, I found an old piece of railroad rail someone had made into an anvil. Now I use it as an anvil.

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I had my husband pound a one inch in diam. two ft. tall copper pipe into a Krymsk 1 stump to kill it, as the Krymsk spread out lateral roots like crazy and I had shoots coming up everywhere. It was mess. The copper pipe went in in Oct. and by the next spring the stump was dead and mushrooms are now growing out of the stump which will be removed this summer. The pipe was pounded about five inches into the stump.

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There are injectable insecticide that use what look like syringes to inject the material directly into the tree’s circulatory system. see the link

Maybe get one of these and fill it with a copper sulfate or other copper solution and attached to the target tree. Should act more quickly and avoid the debate of how fast a copper nail needs to dissolve in the tree or the size of the effected area.


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I think I saw antibiotics for fireblight injected like this once.

Egads, I’m glad you identified that for me, around these parts if you find something like that its an unexploded mortar shell. One of our scouts picked up one on an outing and his mom found it while unpacking his pack and called the bomb squad. They detonated it and it went off.


Reviving this old thread because there Is a lot of discussion on the forum on killing trees right now. Perhaps this will benefit someone.


Always useful information. Thanks to all that posted some ideas. Some trees that we do not want seem to not want to die.

If not in a hurry, wouldn’t tying some copper wire tightly around the trunk work fairly well?

I’m sorry to say I know the answer to that is no. Back before I knew anything at all about trees, I actually used thick copper (bare copper) wire to hang my tags on my trees. Of course, over time, I sort of lost track of some of those wires and tags and by the time I noticed them again, 2 of them had girdled the trees (the tree diameter exceeded the diameter of the wire. But rather than killing the trees, they actually just sort of overcame the wire. Now much of the original copper wire has been completely engulfed by the 2 trees. You can only see the ends of it and a slight bump around the tree. The trees even produced new bark and cambium it appears. Knowing this even makes me wonder about the copper nail thing. I’ve got 2 fruit trees who have a lot of copper wire inside them. Seems hard to imagine during a copper nail into one would be a lot different…but it might.


to get rid of a stump what i like to do is cover the stump with a foot or more of fill dirt and water regularly to encourage rotting. works like a charm. you could even seed it with spores to accelerate the process but i haven’t done this. i’m sure some trees will still grow back though.

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