Oak trees damaged by someone....

mom105August 25, 2013

We had both a landscaper (think skidsteer) and a tree removal service at our home in the last month, today I noticed one of our oak trees has a large gash, about 12" x 3" wide on the trunk about 6' off the ground and the other has a burn mark, and I mean a BLACK burn mark a little bigger than a basketball on the trunk about 2-3' off the ground. Do I try to cover the wounds or just let them be? Tia. Brenda

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Sorry to hear about your problem.

Torn, jagged wounds need to be cleaned and smoothed up. Other than that I usually let most tree wounds heal on their own. I have painted larger wounds once they have dried out, but this I have done very rarely. I have never used tree wound dressing but I am sure it is better than using paint. There is major disagreement out there regarding using paint or tree wound dressing versus letting things heal naturally. Everyone agrees that jagged wounds need to be cleaned up.


Are you one hundred percent certain it is a "burn mark", not soot or oil? If so, how does such a burn mark occur? Only thing I can think of is some kind of engine exhaust pipe jetting out hot gases. Could it possibly just be diesel soot from an engine that was started up near the tree or burned oil coming out of the exhaust of a bad engine? Hot exhaust is bad news, the other things might not make an issue long-term. If it is a true burn then let time pass in order to see the natural progression of things. If that area is dead or damage then the bark will eventually fall off and the issue can be addressed at that time if need be.

So who do you likely suspect? Try to think things through and maybe one contractor can be eliminated in your mind.

The gash could have been from a skid steer or even from a boom arm while maneuvering. Maybe from some kind of vehicle outrigger stabilizer but doubtful at that height.

The "burn mark" was discussed previously. So who would have had a vehicle in that location in order to do their work? Could that same vehicle also have done the damage higher up on the tree (I strongly suspect so). Answer these questions and you most likely have the guilty party.

I would contact both services and have reps come out so you can give whoever did it a chance to come clean and cover the cost of having a professional come to properly inspect and possibly address the tree wounds. If neither admits to doing the damage then tell them that you will have no choice but to put the reputations of both businesses in a negative light and you will be forced to never recommend either one to anybody, ever, and you will take any other actions you deem a necessary and correct response.

Unintentional accidents do happen, but I for one have become completely intolerant of ignorance, carelessness, and stupidity being covered under the term "accident". The situation shows that at least one of the contractors is obviously disreputable and did not have the courage or guts to admit to you that these incidents occurred and take ownership of the problem. That is a slap in YOUR face and shows that one of the contractors has ZERO respect for you. That is the most offensive part of the whole situation.

This is a big deal, not to be taken lightly. Plant an oak sapling and watch how long it takes to reach the size of that damaged tree. If it is a mature oak, you won't live long enough to see it happen. Trees are a very valuable part of property. You have a right to be upset and you have a right to challenge both contractors. See how reputable they truly are.

Good luck,

P.S. While there are some highly reputable tree removal and trimming companies, many in the industry are hacks and hire inexperienced summer crews for low wages. It would not surprise me one bit if the tree removal contractor did the damage. But in many ways the same issues apply to the landscaping industry. Hiring reputable contractors in both fields is by far more important than finding the best price.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Thanks, Tom. Here is a photo of the burn, deeper than I had previously thought, the bark is burned off, down to the tree itself . And I agree we need to find out who did this. Any suggestions, different now that you see the tree? Thanks, Brenda

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:23PM
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This is the gash, the nail was there before the gash, and we know who did this one. I just don't know how they could make it so deep. Thanks, Brenda

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:30PM
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Regarding my previous post, sorry, I misread your original post stating that damage occurred on two separate trees.

So you say you know who damaged one of the trees. You do not have to specifically name, but was it one of the contractors or was it vandalism? What was the cause?

That burn mark looks really bad right now but I think the tree will recover from it easier than the tree that has the gash. That is quite a burn mark for an engine exhaust pipe - I have serious doubts but have no ideas what else could have done that other than a propane weed burner or a gas torch, which would have made it vandalism not human error. Would have had to have been a very incompetent person to have parked a machine with an exhaust that close to the tree for the length of time it would have taken to do that much blackening to the point of actually taking bark off the tree.

That gash is pretty bad, lots of damage to the interior wood. It needs to be cleaned up and tended to at some point. That tree took a serious hit by something to have the wood split that much.

I am no expert but if these were my trees I would let both wounds weather for a while (months) until the wood surfaces are dry, then clean up and paint or seal the exposed wood of both wounds. Do not tear off the blackened bark, doing so will just make things worse. Let any dead bark fall off in its own time. Also the black discoloration of the bark will lessen on its own over time until it is gone, just be concerned with the exposed wood surfaces.

I think both trees can and will heal but those damaged areas will look obvious and quite unattractive for some time until completely healed over - think ten years easily. The big issue to me is that there will now be weak spots in the trunks. Years from now a storm could come through and those trees could break at those dead weak points that will be hidden inside by that time.

Have you had an expert come and look at the wounds?

The pictures are VERY helpful! Thanks for posting them.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:32PM
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This issue STILL makes me quite angry, and they are not even my trees!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:38PM
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