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Wrapping Tree Trunks Helps Boost Tree Health

Sunday, October 15, 2023

It won’t be long until it’s time to wrap holiday gifts, but until then, consider wrapping the trunks of the trees in the landscape to boost tree health.


The winter season can be hard on trees, especially younger trees with thin bark, or those that may have been damaged in previous ice storms or from other injury. Wrapping trees is comparable to humans slipping on a warm coat before heading outside into the winter elements.


Everyone is aware that Oklahoma weather can be unpredictable. When the sun peeks out on a cold winter day, it warms the tree’s bark. Much more of the tree is exposed to the elements because all of the leaves have fallen off. The tissue below the bark feels the warmth and perks up a bit. But once the sun disappears and the temperature drops, it can kill the tissue and leave the bark cracked and dry. This is known as sunscald or southwest injury.


Thin-barked trees such as maple, crabapple, birch, redbuds and ash are susceptible to southwest injury, and young trees are especially vulnerable. Damaged bark and cambium dry out, crack and separate from the wood, eventually falling away and exposing dead sapwood.


Apply wraps in the fall and remove in the spring following the last hard frost. Depending on the type of tree, homeowners can use burlap or plastic. Plastic wraps should fit loosely and have holes or slits for air movement. Be sure to check the wrap throughout the winter for trunk damage or possible insects.


Something similar can happen to evergreens as well. Young trees with no lower branches, exposing the trunk to the sun and fluctuating temperatures, can also develop wounds so it may be helpful to wrap those, too. In addition, the leaves of evergreen plants are susceptible to the drying, cold winter winds, especially during dry winters, resulting in desiccation. It’s a good idea to wrap small, newly-planted or transplanted evergreens, especially those that are exposed to high or constant wind. 


Another option instead of wrapping directly on the tree is to insert three wooden stakes into the ground in a triangle around the tree and fasten burlap to the stakes with staples for a makeshift protective. This method is particularly effective for smaller evergreen plants.


Homeowners can also protect their trees by keeping the lower branches on young trees for a few years until the tree grows thicker bark.


Trees are an investment and can add significantly to a home’s value. Taking proper care of them will help protect that investment.

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