How To Save A Girdled Tree from Dying

By knowing what to do when your tree is girdled, you may be able to save it from dying a fast death. Even though trees are magnificent in their survival tactics, they cannot overcome most cases of girdling on their own.

thetreecareguide.com gathered information on what girdling is, what can cause it, how to repair it, and when to call a professional.

What Is Tree Girdling

To understand how to save your tree, you need to know what girdling is and what you are trying to repair.

A tree is girdled when water and nutrients can no longer flow between the canopy and the roots by way of the xylem and phloem (found directly underneath the bark). You will be trying to bridge the gap caused by bark damage, reconnecting the xylem and phloem.

Girdled tree with severe bark damage

While there are many causes of this condition, the following measures address girdling caused by damaged or removed bark around the circumference of the tree.

How To Fix Girdled Trees

When your tree is girdled due to bark damage, the following procedure may restore the flow of water and nutrients from the canopy to the roots:

1. Collect scion wood. These are “new growth” twigs about a thumb-size in diameter and 2 to 3 inches longer than the wound (mark the top part of the twigs to identify the flow or direction).

2. Clean the wound by removing any loose bark. Use a sharp and clean knife if necessary.

3. Trim one side of the twigs so they will lie flat on the tree trunk.

4. Trim each end of the twigs into a wedge shape.

5. Make two parallel cuts in the bark above and below the wound (in line with each other), you are creating flaps that the twigs (bridges) will be inserted under.

6. With the topside up, lift the flaps and place the bridge under them.

7. Cover the graft connections with a grafting compound or wax to preserve moisture and protect the grafts from infestation and disease.

8. Repeat this process every 3 to 4 inches around the damaged tree trunk.

If the trunk layers and bridges join, the flow of nutrients will be restored. If the bridges fail, the decline of the tree will occur quickly, and a professional should be called in to evaluate the tree and recommend a course of action.

Bridge Grafting Pros and Cons

Bridge grafting is comparable to bypass surgery, only for a tree. This procedure does not always work and is certainly not attractive. To learn more about this method, read canr.msu.edu/news/bridge_grafting_as_a_life_saving_procedure_for_trees

However, when bridge grafting succeeds in restoring the flow of water and nutrients within a tree, you get to enjoy the benefits of that tree for countless years to come.

What Causes Tree Girdling

There are many ways a tree can be girdled. Consider the following before making any decisions on treatments or courses of action:

• Bark damage or removal (by animal or human activity) occurring entirely around the circumference of the trunk.
• Extreme weather events that cause the stripping of the bark from the tree trunk.
• Lightning strikes can instantaneously evaporate the moisture within the bark. Such strikes can cause irreparable damage to the tree trunk.
• Circling roots can wrap themselves around the tree below the root flare. These roots tighten as they grow, and through immense pressure can stop the flow of water and nutrients between the crown and roots.
Tree bark damage girdling caused by circling root
• Climbing vines are also a common culprit. As they grow and circle the tree trunk, the pressure they exert as they thicken can be enough to girdle the tree. Read more about how climbing vines damage trees at thetreecareguide.com/climbing-vines-tree-killers/
Tree bark damage girdling caused by climbing vines
• Strings, ropes, and chains left wrapped around tree trunks will eventually lead to the girdling of the tree. Over long periods, either friction will make them cut into the bark, or the outward growth of the tree trunk will cause them to tighten and eventually girdle the tree.
• A successful beetle infestation can wreak havoc as beetles will bore through the bark and feed on the xylem and phloem in all directions, eventually causing hydraulic failure through girdling.
• Diseases like verticillium wilt can cause girdling at a cellular level by causing the tree’s vascular system to “clog up” and stop the flow of water and nutrients from the crown to the roots.

When you suspect the girdling or hydraulic failure of a tree, it is essential that a professional tree service is called to evaluate the tree and offer a course of action. This may include treatment or removal.

Tree Girdling Repair

In this article, you discovered what girdling means, how to repair it, what causes it, and when to call a professional tree service.

By taking quick action to treat and repair a girdled tree, you can save it from dying a fast death.

When you allow a girdled tree to go untreated, the tree will die. A girdled tree’s root plate destabilizes over time, and the tree may topple in even the lightest of storms.

Sources:
ui.uncc.edu/story/how-save-girdled-tree
hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/remove-girdling-roots.shtml
threeriverslandtrust.org/2018/how-to-save-a-girdled-tree/