How to treat a tree wound

How to treat a tree wound

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

61 guides

Tree wounds can be caused by any number of events. When deprived of their protective bark, trees are less able to fight off pathogens such as fungi and fruit trees are particularly susceptible to injuries. But there are various ways to help out an injured tree. Read on to find out how to treat a tree wound.

Important features

  • Importance of tree care
  • Type of injury and treatment
  • Monitoring
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Why care for an injured tree?


Tree injuries can be traced back to any number of causes from high winds and gnawing animals to branches snapping under the weight of excess fruit. You may even be the cause of the injuries after accidentally cutting or knocking the bark with your tools while mowing the lawn, trimming your borders or weeding.

Unlike animals, trees aren't able to form scar tissue over a wound. Instead, they respond by sealing the wound with callus tissue – but this takes a long time. To help the tree recover you have to act quickly as a wound can be a point of entry for diseases and pathogens such as fungi which can then spread throughout the rest of the tree.

Wood-eating fungus can be particularly dangerous as it can eat away at the lignin (an important structural compound in trees) without leaving any obvious signs until the tree eventually dies; however, you will sometimes see round, hoof-shaped or plate-like fungi appear on the trunk.

How to deal with a broken tree limb

If the broken branch was already dead when it fell, there's no need to intervene: this is just a normal part of the tree's life cycle and nature is well-equipped to handle the situation. However, you may need to get involved if the branch was still alive. If possible start by sawing the remaining part of the branch off cleanly. Then use a spatula to coat the wound with a natural pruning paste or paint making sure you go a little over the edges. If the branch has broken at the level of the trunk clean the wound by removing any wood and bark splinters and apply an organic dressing as above.

If cracks appear in the dressing as it dries, apply a second coat. For the next few months, take special care of the tree as it will be fragile. Provide some fertiliser or compost and water plenty in dry periods.

Making your own wound dressing


These days, most professional tree surgeons and scientist do not recommend commercially produced wound dressings. Many claim that these products work to actually lock the pathogens into the wood, creating a warm, damp environment that encourages bacteria development.

Many gardeners prefer to use a breathable pruning paste or paint of their own making. For example, some gardeners like to use a mixture of equal parts clay and cow dung to treat wounds on fruit trees.

Here's another recipe idea: combine one part powdered Bordeaux mixture and five parts powdered clay in a container. Gradually add water and stir well to produce a thick paste. You can also add one part vegetable oil to prevent the clay from cracking while it dries. Then, simply apply the paste with a paintbrush. You can use any kind of commercial clay for this, or even soil from your garden if you live in an area with clay-heavy soil!

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Should you fill a hollow tree?


At one time people were advised to fill cavities in the tree trunks using what we now know to be pretty harmful methods. After years of trial and error, it's been established that hollow trees can go on living perfectly healthily for a long time.

What's more, tree cavities make very useful shelters for wild animals which can be a great help in the garden such as bees, woodpeckers, owls, sparrows, bats, and squirrels.

The only advice that still stands today is that you should avoid letting water stagnate inside the trunk if the rain gets in. All you need to do is drill a hole with a standard drill below the mouth of the cavity to allow the water to drain out of the trunk.

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 61 guides

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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