If you live in a subtropical environment like Florida, or in arid desert regions of the southwest in states such as Arizona and California, you may find yourself with an unwanted palm tree as part of your yard’s landscaping.
To get rid of a palm tree, the best and efficient options you have are to either cut/chop it down, or dig it up. Palm trees don’t need to be treated with an herbicide to be killed. However, there are several things to take into consideration to do it safely and legally.
Step One: Identify the Palm Tree and Possible Permits Needed
Some are short, others are tall, with the largest palm trees towering more than 190 feet into the air.
Some have fruit, others have seeds, but yet they all belong to the same family.
With over 2,500 species the Arecaceae family of plants include members that are small enough to fit in a small planter on your desk to colossal behemoths that reach into the sky.
However, sometimes it is necessary to remove one of these staple architectural plants from your yard.
Although the process is fairly straight forward, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration.
In most states, you do not need a permit to trim or remove a tree from personal property unless its removal will impact neighboring property or city owned property.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if a permit is needed:
- Is the tree, or its branches (fronds), expanding over the property line of my property?
- Is the tree over a height to safely remove it without professional help?
- Is it close to a power or telephone pole?
- When the tree is felled, is there a possibility of it landing outside of the property line or on a structure?
- Would it be better to dig it up and relocate/sell it?
- Is the tree a protected species?
In the state of Florida there are several protected species of palms which require special permissions and permits to move or chop down a tree.
With the old adage, “it’s better to be safe then sorry”, it is wise to look up the type of tree you want to get rid of before chopping it down.
Some palm trees are considered valued and can be sold to nurseries and other tree selling shops, in which case it will be best to dig up the tree instead of chopping it down.
Common Palm Trees by State
|Mexican Fan Palm||Mexican Fan Palm||Canary Island Date Palm||Paurotis Palm|
|Queen Palm||Queen Palm||True Date Palm||Mexican Fan Palm|
|Date Palm||Date Palm||Pindo Palm||Date Palm|
|Royal Palm||King Palm||Texas Sabal Palm||Chinese Fan Palm|
|Pindo Palm||Canary Island Date Palm||Flordia Sabal/ Cabbage Palm||Queen Palm|
|Chilean Wine Palm||Pygmy Date Palm||California Fan Palm||Wild Date Palm|
|Canary Island Date Palm||Pindo Palm||Mexican Fan Palm||Florida Sabal/ Cabbage Palm|
|Mexican Blue Palm||Chilean Wine Palm||Chinese Fan Palm||Senegal Date Palm|
|Mediterranean Fan Palm||Senegal Date Palm||Queen Palm||Canary Island Date Palm|
|Sonoran Palmetto||Majestic Palm||Windmill Palm||Pindo Palm|
|Californian Fan Palm||Mexican Blue Palm||Mediterranean Fan Palm|
|Windmill Palm||Guadalupe Fan Palm||Dwarf Date Palm|
|Chinese Fountain Palm||Sonoran Palmetto||Sago Palm|
|*From The University of Arizona||*From The University of California||*From Aggie Horticulture||*From The University of Florida|
To help identify a species of palm tree, check out PalmIdentifier.com.
Step 2: Remove Excess Weight of the Fronds
Again, it must be emphasized that if a tree is too tall to safely chop down (over 12 feet if you do not have specialized equipment), contact a professional tree removal service.
However, if the tree is a safe size and no permit is required, the next step is to remove the excess weight of the fronds.
Watch out: Some fronds have spikes. It is best to wear thick gloves, protective eye gear, and a long sleeved shirt to protect your hands, eyes, and arms while trimming fronds.
Also, if you live in a desert region that has scorpions, BEWARE since scorpions like to live in the fronds, as well as rats.
(If you get stung by a scorpion, wash the affected area with soap and water, apply a cold compress, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever).
Using large pruning shears, saw, or chain saw, cut the frond as close to the trunk as possible.
Make sure not to stand directly under the frond when it falls down, and that children and pets are kept at a safe distance.
What to do with palm fronds:
Unlike most vegetation, palm fronds do not decompose well.
They also wreck havoc on wood chippers.
Because of this durability, palm fronds can be made into thatched roofs if you make your own backyard cabana, dried decorative pieces for flower arrangements, weave it to make fencing, or other creative pursuits.
If you lack time to pursue a creative use for the fronds and lack space in your green waste bin, call your city and inquire about possible green waste pick up.
Step 3: Cutting/Chopping Preparations
After the main bulk of the fronds are removed, determine which direction the tree is going to be felled.
If a tree is heavier on one side, or tends to be leaning towards a certain direction, choose that direction to for the tree to fall if nothing is in the way.
Make sure that all debris has been removed so it is easy to step away from the tree if need be.
Make sure children and pets are secured away from the area.
Step 4: Cutting/Chopping Down the Tree
Using a chain saw, make a cut 25% through the trunk on the side where you want the trunk of the tree to fall.
Then make a second cut above the first, angling it down so it meets the first cut. This should result in removing a wedge from that side of the tree.
On the other side of the tree, create a horizontal cut that meets the first cut. As the tree falls, step away to avoid falling debris.
If there is a structure close to the tree, and felling the tree in one go isn’t ideal, mark the tree into smaller sections, and starting from the top, cut small sections of the tree off until you reach the stump.
Step 5: Removing the Stump
There are several ways to remove a palm tree stump which are mentioned in the article 19 Ways to Remove a Tree Stump.
Since palm trees have an expansive root system that doesn’t go very deep, one inexpensive way is to simply dig up the root.
Palm tree roots tons of small fibrous roots that expand out from the tree, but only go about 36 inches into the top soil.
If you ever wondered why so many palm trees are able to survive hurricane winds, imagine their roots acting like Velcro, anchoring the tree in by covering a large amount of area instead of depth.
By digging the main stump out, the roots do not regenerate, so don’t worry if there are some roots left once the main stump is removed.
However, if the ground is very hard, grinding or a decomposing method can be used.
Option 2: Removing a Palm Tree by Digging
I you decide that you would rather dig up and relocate a palm tree, simply wet the ground near the tree and dig around a foot or two around the tree and under the root ball.
For ease of transport, it is recommended to trim off some of the fronds, especially if they are brown or yellow.
Be Careful– Although palm trees can survive some root damage, extensive root damage can kill a tree.
Place the tree and its roots in a large garbage bag to protect the roots during transport.
When replanting the tree, dig a shallow hole twice the size of the root ball, place the tree in it, cover the exposed roots and water the tree.
Will a Palm Tree Regrow Once it is Chopped Down?
Like trees mentioned in the article Do Trees Grow Back After Being Cut Down, a palm tree will not grow back when cut down.
Even if some roots are left in the ground, a palm tree lacks the ability to regenerate once it’s top is removed.
Is a Palm Tree Technically a Tree?
There is debate in the arboral community whether or not a palm is technically a tree.
In fact, a palm tree belongs to a family called monocots, which are plants that emerge as a single leaf, unlike dicotyledons (other trees) that have two leaves when they first start to grow.
One defining characteristic of trees is their ability to grow upwards and outwards.
However, palm trees lack the ability to grow outwards.
Palm trees are related to grasses and bamboos, which when they grow do not grow tree rings or a “second growth” like other trees.
So, technically, no.
A palm is not a tree by the traditional sense, but a woody herb.
Uses for Palm Tree Wood
The wood from palm trees is different than traditional wood used in furniture making and cabinetry.
Although it is used traditionally in construction in its native regions, the wood itself is very fibrous and full of liquid, making it hard to dry out.
In fact, palm wood is usually pressed to extract oils used in soaps, drinks, and syrups, while their flexible fibers are used to make hammocks, hats, and wicker furniture.
Palm wood is not ideal for fire wood.
Palm trees are closely related to grasses which burn quickly without producing very much heat.
When burning palm wood, there is a danger of clogging chimneys.
Things that Come From Palm Trees
Palm trees have been an important staple to many civilizations throughout history, and continue to play a crucial part in several products we still use today.
If you cook with coconut oil, or enjoy a nice bar of soap, chances are you are using one of the many products that come from the palm family.
Some of the most popular items include:
- Betel Nuts
- Acai Fruit
- Palm Oil
No Need to do a Facepalm
Removing a palm tree is a breeze when done correctly.
However, remember if the tree is to tall for the job, contact tree removal professionals and get the best quote to get the job done.
By making sure all legal and safety procedures are followed, you’ll be relaxing with tropical drink in your hand in no time.