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How do you save a damaged tree?

Aug 23

A tree that has lost its bark can be saved by first assessing the extent of the damage. Once you have determined the extent of the damage, you will be able to plan treatment.

Trees can't heal

According to New Mexico State University (NMSU), trees cannot heal. Instead, they use a "callus tissue" to seal the wounds. This sealant is applied around the wound's edges. The tree creates new wood around the wound. This protects the wound against further damage and exposure.

Sealing Process for Ragged Bark Hampers

This can speed up the process by treating the wound. A wound with ragged bark can cause damage to even the most healthy trees. Assist in removing the ragged bark from the wound and dressing it. Bark tracing is what you call it.

Bark Tracing Method

To replace the damaged bark, remove the jagged bark from the area. It is important to get rid of this uneven bark as it can continue to rip and cause more damage.


  • Sharp chisel
  • Hammer


  1. Use the chisel or hammer to remove the rough bark.
  2. Remove any bark that is damaged and any bark that may be left around the wound.
  3. Forest Keepers advises against piercing the wounds, especially around the edges.
  4. A tree's ability to grow new bark on the site of a wound is a sign that it will heal.

Restoring a Girdled Tree

The tree is girded if it has a ring or bark removed. This can lead to the tree dying. It all depends on the severity of the girdling. Beavers are known for girdling trees.

Gradients of Girdled Injury

New NMSU states that trees can be saved if they are damaged beyond 25 percent.

  • Although a patch measuring one-fourth of the tree's circumference won't cause death, it can affect the tree's overall health.
  • The tree will struggle to survive if the size of the patch is greater than 50 percent of its tree circumference.
  • NMSU warns that removing the only band around the tree could eventually lead to its death.

How a damaged girdle affects a tree

The removal of bark exposes the first layer (phloem), which triggers a chain reaction.

  1. The phloem is responsible for transferring the nutrients generated by photosynthesis to the leaves.
  2. The bark protects the roots and the phloem cannot send the energy it needs.
  3. This energy is not available to the roots, so it cannot transmit water and minerals up the tree's branches to the roots.
  4. The tree's upper portion will die, while its roots take in the nutrients.

Method of Bridge Grafting

Tree roots are often the last to die. A repair graft (bridge graft) is often able to save trees. The graft creates a bridge between the roots, leaves, and roots. The tree may recover depending on how successful the bridge graft is. The tree can use the bridge to buy enough time to heal the wound and create new tissue.


You only need a knife, branches/twigs, and a fork.


  1. Use the bark tracing technique to clean the tree wound. Rounding out any sharp or uneven edges will make them less noticeable. You should also remove any bark.
  2. Choose healthy branches, or small twigs if the tree has a weak branch.
  3. NMSU recommends that ideal branches/twigs are no larger than your thumb.
  4. You should ensure that the length of the branches/twigs (bridges), is at least one to three inches longer than the wound width.
  5. The phloem's movement is limited to one direction, so mark the top of bridges.
  6. Use a knife to trim the ends of the branches so that they can be flattened against a tree trunk.
  7. Next, trim the opposite side to make a wedge.

Make a Flap for Bridges

To receive bridges, you will need to make flaps in the bark of the tree.

  1. Begin by cutting two parallel lines with the knife. Make sure to attach the flap ends to the tree.
  2. To avoid removing the bark from the tree, the branches should be carefully placed underneath the flap.
  3. Place the branches (bridges), underneath the flap.
  4. The flap should remain attached to your trunk.
  5. The goal is to see the bridges, the phloem, and the cambium under the bark grow together.
  6. The graft will then restore the exchange between roots and leaves.
  7. Although it is unlikely that the bridges will save the tree from its fate, they can give it the chance to recover from the damage.
  8. When the canopy grows back and the tree sprouts new foliage, you know that the bridges work.