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How To Treat Injured Tree Bark

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It may be strange to think of a tree as being injured, but trees are susceptible to being wounded in a number of ways. One of the most serious tree injuries is damage to the bark. Bark damage comes in varying degrees, ranging from a few missing chunks all the way to being completely stripped. Below is more information on tree bark injuries and what you can do to properly treat an injured tree with bark damage:

Why bark damage matters

The bark of a tree is more complex than first glances reveal. The rough, outer layer of bark serves as a protective barrier that guards the innermost layer, known as the phloem. The phloem is analogous to the circulatory system found in animals; it transports nutrients and moisture up from the roots all the way to the top of the tree. 

If the bark is damaged deeper than the outer "skin", the phloem can be injured, as well. This disrupts the healthy flow of nutrients, and if the injury is widespread, the tree can die.

Treatment options for bark damage

It's important to remember that trees have a well-developed system to heal themselves, so be sure to understand that not every tree wound should be treated the same. Trees react to injury by developing a callused tissue that engulfs the wound; this serves to seal-off the rest of the tree from pathogens. This process works particularly well in young, vigorous trees that are able to respond quickly to damage. The application of fertilizers also helps the tree to absorb extra nutrients to compensate for those that are lost due to injury.

Keep in mind the application of dressings, coatings, paint or any other artificial substance is actually likely to inhibit this healing process, so avoid their use whenever possible. With that in mind, the following treatment options can help as long as you remember to allow the tree to self-heal as much as possible:

Small wounds

In cases with light damage to the bark, the biggest risk is the potential for the wound to become an entry point for harmful microorganisms. Your response should be cautious, and in most cases, keeping a watchful eye on the wound is sufficient. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Appearance of scales on the bark or near the base of the trunk

  • Discoloration of bark

  • Sap draining from the bark

  • Leaves dying during the spring or summer

  • Dried, brittle wood

If any of these signs of infection appear, contact a nursery or qualified arborist for assistance in diagnosing the specific disease. They can provide you with appropriate treatment information, as well.

Moderate wounds

If a tree has large swaths of bark that have been stripped, then you should respond by pruning the jagged edges of bark that remain. This creates a cleaner wound site, and the tree will be able to better respond with its own natural healing processes.

To prune the site, simply use a sharp, clean pruning knife to cut an oval shape around the wound. Try not to cut too deeply into the tree, as you only want to remove the bark, and be sure to keep your cuts as clean as possible. After cutting away the jagged bark remnants, monitor the site for signs of disease as you would for small wounds.

Large wounds

Massive wounds can be untreatable in many circumstances, unfortunately. If a tree is cut around its entire circumference, known as girdling, you should obtain professional assistance from an arborist. In certain circumstances, arborists can perform a bridge graft using healthy bark to buy time for the tree as it heals itself. However, in many girdling situations, the tree will need to be removed to prevent it from becoming a safety hazard as it dies.

For more information, contact a local tree service company, or visit http://shadywoodtreeexperts.com.