bark rotting at base of tree

brass_tacks(8b/GA)July 14, 2009

My questions is ... Can I remove bark from ALL AROUND THE BASE of a tree, clean the area and smooth the area and paint with shellac and expect the tree to live?

Just noticed that after a rain that while the moisture on the leaves and wood was dry, the base of a few citrus trees had damp looking wood at the base of the tree. At closer inspection I could feel that the bark was somewhat soft and could be easily lifted with my finger.

The proceedure I described above is what I did and then I attached some plastic with silver tape above the wound to protect the wound and the plastic far enough so that any rain would not splatter the base of the truck.

I won't be able to get back to the thread before the PM, but I'm hoping someone will have some answers.

I might add that the trees had been loosing leaves -- more than the rest, and also these trees had large suckers that had grown that I cut off last year (at the base of the trees). The last reason I believe this happened is that each one of these trees had sunk below the surrounding soil -- a result of me digging a much larger hole than what was needed when I first planted the trees. The trees are mature. I was going to dig the trees up and replant them, but didn't get around to it. Now, of course, I'm sorry.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7


The very thin layer of tissue (called phloem) that transports photosynthates from the leaves to the roots and other parts of the tree body is located directly under the bark. As a matter of fact, we call it the 'inner bark'. The removal or death of this phloem tissue, when it occurs all around the trunk, is called 'girdling'. Perhaps you've heard of that term. It's a method of killing a tree or other woody plant. Death of a tree isn't usually immediate, as you have observed. It can take months or years.

Planting too deeply, piling mulch or soil up against the trunk, tree wraps, and other factors contribute to this problem in the home landscape.

You cannot protect the wound or do anything whatsoever to fix the problem at this late date. The phloem has ceased to exist and the essential transport system is gone.

Next time, measure the height of the root ball very carefully and dig the hole so that the root mass will sit HIGHER than the existing grade, not lower.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 9:25AM
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Thanks Rhizo,
That's the word 'girdling' I couldn't remember. So, if the wound would have happened in just one area instead of all the way around, the tree might have a chance. Is that correct?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 11:59AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yes, if there is a reasonable amount of phloem tissue all of the way from the branches to the root system, woody plants tend to struggle along. IF all other factors are positive influences, and not negative.

With your situation, it sounds like the wood rotted even before you lifted the bark away. It's very difficult to separate healthy inner bark from the tree body.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 2:27PM
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