If you are an owner of wooded property or if your property is flanked by trees, it’s likely that you’ll encounter a tree injury at some point or another. Strong weather, lawn maintenance, construction, or even sometimes just trying to back out of the driveway are some factors that can cause injury to a tree. Even pruning a tree could technically be causing injury, though it may be needed to benefit a greater cause. When addressing an injury to a tree, you may feel the need to protect the area from further damage. However, an injury doesn’t always require care, and often attempts at “care” may make a problem worse.
Though I don’t come across it as much as I did early in my career, every now and then I see a pruning cut that’s black with “pruning sealer”, usually several on one tree. I’ve seen trees wrapped with cloth in an effort to protect a wound. I still sometimes see large hollows filled with concrete. I can only imagine the stinging frustration that’s felt when finding hidden concrete with a chainsaw. I’ve even seen expanding foam in a tree!
I guess the idea behind these methods is to keep things out that may invade a wound; keep the bugs out so to speak.
The truth is that aside from removing loose bark from an affected area or providing a cleaner cut to a torn or damaged limb, there’s not really much to be done. Healthy trees have a remarkable way of healing that can’t be improved upon with a human application of products. In the arborist world, we refer to this as the compartmentalization of decay in trees or CODIT. Simply put, a tree has the ability to create a barrier or “wall” between a wound and the area surrounding it. This process takes place in a mostly outward manner. If we fill or cover this then we essentially block this process and drastically decrease any chance of healing.
If you happen to find a situation where an injury has occurred in a tree, usually the best thing you can do is leave it alone, at least until someone qualified says otherwise. If you’re the nurturing kind that just can’t ignore an injured friend, then moral support can go a long way!