I have recently pruned a couple of large trees in our yard. I recall
our neighbor painting the cut piece on the tree to protect it from the
What kind of paint could I use?
Is this necessary?
I had to trim one tree due as it was rotten and about to fall anyway. I
noticed a fungus on it and wondered if this was related to the branch
being rotten. Any thoughts?
Painting tree wounds is a thing of the past, with a few exceptions.
Trees have developed a system (known as CODIT, or Compartmentalization
of Decay in Trees, if you want to read more) of minimizing the spread
of decay after wounding. The first step is physical plugs in the
exposed vascular tissues, then comes chemical barriers to the spread
of decay, and then comes the exterior growth that closes over the
outside of the wound over time. This exterior growth comes from the
branch collar and is the strongest barrier of defense.
If proper cuts are made
(http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/pruning_mature.asp ), retaining
the collar, the tree will do fine without paint--in fact, paint can
interfere with the tree's response and lead to a defect known as ram's
horn (because the collar tissues spiral inward at the edges of the
wound instead of growing over the outside of the branch).
If branch cuts are made flush to the trunk, removing this collar, the
tree will never effectively heal the damage, and internal defects are
likely regardless of painting. In this case, paint may be useful
since the tree is not able to do what it should. A "wound sealer" or
"pruning paint" (find it in any garden department or nursery) would be
appropriate. This is not a cure-all--the damage has been done--but
might help a little.
Another exception is when paint can help prevent spread of disease.
Oaks and elms are subject to fungal infections, called oak wilt
disease and Dutch Elm disease. If you have an oak in an oak wilt
center or an elm in a DED center, painting may be a good idea. The
type of paint isn't really important, since the goal is merely to
change the way the cut smells to the insects that may transmit the
disease. I suggest a latex (water-based) paint instead of wound
dressing or pruning paint in this case.
The fungus on a dead branch is usually only feeding on the decaying
wood and is not something to be concerned about. You would just want
to remove the dead branch and dispose of it. But some fungi
(Armillaria spp., Phytophthora spp.) destroy healthy roots and lead to
total tree failure, so be careful about how cavalier an approach you
take. A google image search should help you decide if you have one of
these problem fungi. If you are not sure, call a certified arborist
or a consulting arborist. You can find an ISA Certified Arborist at
www.isa-arbor.com, though membership in the American Society of
Consulting Arborists is a good criterion for selecting an arborist in
cases like this.
ISA Certified Arborist #TX-236
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