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Herbicide Causes Widespread Tree Deaths

An herbicide once touted as an environmentally friendly option to traditional herbicides is responsible for thousands of tree deaths.

dead tree

Photo: Rodney Ramsey (Flickr)

When sprayed too close to their root systems, Imprelis causes the needles of conifers to turn brown and the trees eventually die.

Tree Massacre

Initially promoted as a more environmentally friendly alternative to other herbicides, the weed killer Imprelis has been noted for its ability to kill difficult weeds like ground ivy, creeping Charlie, and henbit.

Unfortunately, it also appears to be exceptionally good at killing trees.

Imprelis is thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of trees since it was introduced in 2010, specifically trees with shallow root systems like Norway spruce and white pine conifers. DuPont, the company that makes Imprelis has sent a letter to its customers urging them not to spray Imprelis around trees. They also suggest that the trees may grow back if the trees are allowed to remain in the ground.

Unexpected Consequences

Before this tree scandal Imprelis seemed like a great product, one that would be more environmentally friendly than other herbicides, because it has lower toxicity to mammals and is effective in small concentrations. The Environmental Protection Agency approved Imprelis last October and it is registered in 48 states.

Now, though, Imprelis’ lethal impact on trees has brought it to the FDA’s attention. The FDA is reviewing Imprelis and “taking this very seriously.”

Imprelis has been criticized by the New York officials who say that because Imprelis can not bind with soil and because it leaches with ground water, they will not approve its use in New York state.

The United State Composting Council says that plants that have been treated with Imprelis cannot be used in composting piles because the herbicide will contaminate other plants that are fertilized with the compost. Imprelis carries a warning label about its inability to be composted.

Bad For Business

Landscaping businesses have suffered from using Imprelis as they answer to angry customers who have lost their trees. Company owners and employees compare the impact of Imprelis to that of the emerald ash borer.

Trees that are being killed by Imprelis have often taken decades to grow and can not be replaced right away. A class action lawsuit has been filed by two law firms who want DuPont to pay for damages suffered by landscapers and individuals who have lost their trees.

“This supposedly safe product potentially killed thousands of mature trees. These can’t just be replaced by going to the garden store, it takes 30 years for most species to reach maturity,” says Christopher Keller, a partner with the Labaton Sucharow law firm who is involved in suing DuPont. “Many of the people who were affected by Imprelis won’t see their trees replaced during their lifetimes and we think that they deserve to be repaid for that damage.”

Herbicides And Pesticides Are Risky Business

Herbicides and pesticides regularly make the news for their unintended consequences which are more often than not lethal to other plant and animal life.

The pesticide Clothiandidin is being studied for its potential link to bee deaths after it was banned from Germany for the same reason.

Round-Up Ready has been linked to birth defects.

And, with bats being killed off by the mysterious white nose syndrome, one wonders if herbicides and pesticides are involved.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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  • Kris Heather

    This is WHY ORGANIC is so good. ANYONE who follows the organic way of life would NEVER use thsi product and therefore not cause this insane poison to enter our ground water let alone our compost ! I hope this makes government wake up and get real about letting these criminals make products that kill.

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