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Weed Control in Lawns May Cause Problems in Trees

by Marcia Passos Duffy, All About Lawns Columnist

If the bark on your trees is cracking or splitting, you may chalk up the damage to cold weather. But the winter season may not be the problem--the problem may lie with your weed control.

Research at Ohio State University Extension has discovered that split bark (which can sometimes occur naturally on the south and southwest side of trees because of freezing and thawing patterns) can be caused by glyphosate herbicides that are applied directly to the tree bark, are accidentally sprayed because of drift, or are applied too frequently and in too high doses in the surrounding landscape.

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Glyphosate products used as weed control in lawns--including the commonly used turf herbicide, Roundup--may do a good job killing weeds in the lawn, but the chemical causes irreversible damage on landscape and nursery woody plants. The problem is not only cosmetic damage, with the unsightly splitting bark appearing, but glyphosate products deteriorate the whole bark structure and destroy the winter hardiness of young trees.

How to Prevent Glyphosate Damage

  • Don't not over spray (which can cause drift onto trees).
  • Keep a buffer (about 30 feet) between trees and the weeds you spray. Make sure you especially keep the chemical away from young trees, which are most susceptible to damage.
  • Reduce your use of glyphosate. Use chemical weed control in lawns only as a last resort; don't use indiscriminately.

For more information, review the helpful herbicide fact sheet offered by the University of Massachusetts.


About the Author
Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She is a frequent contributor to Turf Magazine and Growing Magazine. Visit her site at

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