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I have a group of birch trees, with a pine growing in the midst of them, in my front yard. My friend is telling me the pine must be cut down to save the birches. I see her concern, however: I think the entire arrangement is pretty; the pine looks healthy; I don't like to kill anything; and tree removal in Massachusetts is very expensive. I'd prefer to leave it alone, or, if anything, take down the birch directly to the right of the pine (see the third picture below), as it's leaning over the driveway.

This view is from the road.

Road view

This is a side view from the driveway.

Driveway view

The roots of the pine, on the left, are virtually tucked under the birch on the right,

pine on left

and are also encroaching on another birch to the left.

pine on right

Is cutting one of the trees down strongly recommended? If so, which?

  • I'm not sure the root system of the birch, but the pine's root is a tap root ... the main root is straight down. I would bet the birch is more of a surface root system, but unsure ... leaving this as a comment. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 8 '15 at 23:59
  • A tree that size should cost you about 5 minutes of time and no money to remove, in Massachusetts or anywhere else, unless you need to buy a pruning saw, in which case it won't cost much. Give it 10 more years and it will be expensive to remove. It's the wrong tree for the location. – Ecnerwal Feb 27 '15 at 4:52
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Only you can make the decision about what is to be done but a little more information may assist you:

If this were my house I would take my little pruning saw and remove the pine now. Half an hours work now avoids a bill later from the arborist.

By the way, if those birches are the same ones you asked about here then those birches are dying. This is a great opportunity to get both trees removed and put in something just right for you.

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    I think the pine is okay there, if she doesn't mind limbing it up later, but I agree with most of your points. – J. Musser Feb 9 '15 at 11:53
  • That's a lot of assistance! This group is about ten feet away from the birches in my previous question, and there are a few others scattered around. We moved here recently so I don't know the age, but since all the birches are of similar trunk width and height, should I assume they're all elderly and sick? – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Feb 9 '15 at 21:17
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    You can determine if a birch is dying back from leaf miners or grubs by looking at the leaves in the late spring. Typically the top three to six feet of the tree die back and the rest of the tree dies within a year or two. – kevinsky Feb 9 '15 at 21:27
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Leave them. I see poplar and spruce living together in sin all the time, especially in grazed pasture. (Young spruce more than a foot away from something get stepped on.)

The birch is short lived, typically only about 30 years. Most birch suffer from lack of water, then, under water stress succumb to other diseases. Locally birch are always found native only in areas that have an additional source of water -- seep, slough nearby, runoff channel, creek. Give it 2 feet extra water per year over a circle = twice the tree's height in radius, and it will live a century or more.

The pine appears to be a 5 needle pine. White pine? Swiss Stone Pine? Most of these can tolerate wet ground. The 2 and 3 needle pines are not found of soggy ground. If your soil is reasonably deep loam, they can both be happy. If the soil is sandy, you will have a hard time keeping the birch healthy as it grows taller. The pine however will do fine. If your soil is thin with clay underneath, you can drown the pine with excess moisture.

  • It would be nice to explain why you down voted this answer. – Sherwood Botsford Mar 9 '15 at 18:56

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