Are tree wound dressing products a good idea?

toxcrusadrJune 27, 2013

A friend had a tree taken out and the gorillas managed to damage the bark on an adjacent tree. Hit it with the stump grinder or some such. So there is a chunk of bark missing from the trunk. He says they are probably going to want to put some kind of wound dressing on it, and is wondering if that's a good idea. Dad always used the tarry stuff, but I too have heard in recent years that it may not really help.

I don't know the size or species but I gather it's deciduous and not a sapling or a monster.

I suggested he ask them what they are going to use and how they know it's a good idea.

Any thoughts?

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The worst thing you could do would be to dress the wound. It will eventually seal off the injured part as long as the bark was removed from a vertical strip and NOT from around the circumstance of the tree. I have had damage to trees done annually in the Fall deer rut. They all seem to recuperate eventually. Who wants to dress the wound? (The same idiots who damaged it in the first place?!)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:42PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

We really need a picture and species. As njoasis alluded, not every wound is equal even if they are the same overall size. There are people here that will help however is possible.

In any event keep the "monkey's with a chainsaw" away from the tree. Plus document EVERYTHING. Contract for removal of other tree, any offers of "help", dated photos etc. Hold them accountable.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 1:17PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I contend tree wound treatments are a mixed bag.

If a wound is big enough to be sealed off before rot would set in you almost certainly do not need it.

If the wound is going to be open for say five or ten years.....I dunno. My neighbors treat their decks.

Problem is horticultural medial treatment is a strange world. There is no "neosporin" equilavent. And even though mammals have been around for hundreds of millions of years I put neosporin on my wounds and boy when I had that ACL surgery they put special stuff on and gave me a prescription.

My one friend treats wounds with undercoating(!) of all things and it seems to work. I did not treat a pruning cut on a black walnut and it was open for 9 years with no sign of rot. A smaller cut on a red maple and it caught an infection and I am out there sanitizing it and scraping away black oozy stuff that used to be wood.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 1:59PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they are snake oil .. IMHO ...

trees have been around for millions of years.. they heal themselves .. the proper term is 'compartmentalization'

the tree will put out water.. your will trap it in.. not good ..

the weather will add water .. and it will trap it in ..

the sealer can not remain efficient on a growing ..moving tree ... so sooner or later.. it will fail ...

the fact that the old timers actually tarred them.. just goes to show.. how efficient a tree can be in getting over the damage created by idiots ...

stuff happens.. enjoy the process of watching the tree heal itself ...


ps: your use of gorilla in the first sentence.. made me think this was going to be about some nut using gorilla glue... lol

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 2:05PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I agree with NJoasis and Ken. Tree dressings are rarely if ever beneficial in such cases and frequently detrimental.

In cases where very large wounds may not heal over before rot would set in, we've previously discussed the possibility of liquid copper fungicide (not a "tree dressing"), properly applied. I think those threads may no longer be available though (doesn't seem that long ago, but maybe it was).

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Ken hit on it exactly. "CODIT".

"Compartmentalization Of Decay In Trees" is the natural response that a tree will biologically initiate to deal with a wound.

Similar to letting a cut on your hand scar over, rather than coating it with nail polish.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 11:03PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

" Similar to letting a cut on your hand scar over, rather than coating it with nail polish."

Just to keep the debate going and group think from setting in.....

I contend that I have (we all have?) hydrogen peroxide and neosporin in our medicine cabinents for small wound treatments. For large wounds like my ACL surgery or other cuts the hospital glues and stitches us back together and uses all kinds of exotic materials to keep infection from setting in. They even give out preventative anti biotics.

Difference with trees is we just do not know what to use. I was looking at old pruning cuts yesterday and many have that crack in the exposed structural woodetting who knows what in for the next couple years.

Now in George Washington's time you might be best avoiding the snake oils. Eventually for trees someone will figure this out as well. We just are in the guessing stage.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 8:18AM
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There is a fundamental difference though between plants and animals. Animals 'heal'. Trees and other plants do not heal. Dead tissue is sealed off, 'compartmentalized' and living tissue grows over it. There is actually a ton of literature out there on the process. Trees build several different lines of defence (walls) in order to avoid infection. As far as I have read, most of the experts do not advocate wound dressings. However, it is advised that injured area be pruned to remove dead bark and to even out the edges of the wound in order to facilitate callusing. Helpful to reduce stress while the patient recovering so, if you are dry, don't forget to water.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tree wounds

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 10:02AM
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I just read this really fast, so bear with me if I got something wrong. But apparently, the idea is to coat the wound with nail polish, right?

Sorry, just thought that was kind of funny. Somebody here is seeking actual info. And it has been provided, both in the post immediately above this, and a few others up top. Aside from those cases where-and we don't necessarily know this aforehand-the wound is not going to close before rot sets in, wound treatments of any kind are not called for. At least those materials available today. Who knows what the future holds though? Maybe some day there will be something which actually helps.

Spruceman is the guy who not only developed a liquid copper fungicide of his own, but detailed its use on these pages a couple/few years ago. That whole thing made sense for what he was doing with it-coating very large wounds. He claimed to have had great success and I don't doubt it.

But for your run of the mill pruning cuts and for trunk bashings like this case, no, you won't want anything applied to the wound. Either the tree has the juice to overcome the assault or it doesn't. As such, you could potentially influence things in a positive direction simply by doing those things which tend to keep the tree healthy-don't let drought take hold, ie water if needed, perhaps a very modest application of fertilizer (More controversy there), that sort of thing. Mainly, the tree's got to do it's own walling off of the wounded area.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:51AM
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They are a good idea if the tree is a oak and you are in a area that has oak wilt.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Isn't it hilarous when people quote the "latest-greatest authoritarian authorities" notions/ideas/rules as inviolable laws of the universe?

I painted copper napthenate solution directly on apple anthracnose lesions (code words for bare wood very possibly infected with the sexual cycle of the fungus) and not only did the lesion start healing nicely, the wood no longer wants to rot.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:07PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Quote from Shigo from one of his believers (mostly):
"In Europe where thick coats of wound dressing are used, especially one product that covers wounds with a rubber-like film [asphaltic materials?], fruit bodies of fungi breaking through the wound dressing are common. The dressings protect the fungi, keep the wounds moist, and make conditions perfect for rapid growth. Never put wound dressings over a large wound that has some infected wood. You will then protect the pathogens. Most large branches already have some internal infections. Wound dressing over a pruning wound that removes a large branch will help the pathogens.

But will not the dressing stimulate callus, and if the wound closes rapidly, the pathogens will not spread? Yes, in theory this is correct. On small wounds, callus will normally close the wounds rapidly, so no dressing is needed. On large wounds, the callus rarely closes the wound, and the dressing will protect the pathogens. If branches are pruned properly, the pathogens will seldom spread into the tree. If branches are pruned improperly, no amount or type of material will keep the pathogens out.
Nature has a wound dressing that does resist pathogens. The material is made on the inside of wounds. What we must not do is to destroy the only wound dressing that works."

My question - has anyone tried to find out what the "material...made on the inside of wounds [by nature]" is? Would that be the ideal "wound dressing?"

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Just to reiterate what dricha said, in areas where oak wilt is an issue, current guidelines SPECIFICALLY RECOMMEND painting all wounds including bare stumps with wound dressing to prevent infection.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oak Wilt Pruning

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 2:00PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

"My question - has anyone tried to find out what the "material...made on the inside of wounds [by nature]" is? Would that be the ideal "wound dressing?"ÃÂ hortster"

This interests me. Is the encapaulating wood any different than other wood on the tree? My wild guess is slightly compressed bark. But that is based on silver maples and the like I have cut which were encapsulating long splits in their trunks. Looked almost like compressed bark was trying to form on that odd rolled over section and I think I have seen that further in tree trunks as well.

My urge is always to find the neosporin type treatment for lack of a more advanced term. Be it deck sealer once the live layers of the tree have sealed themselves off or grafting wax or whatever.

Since doctors have been wrong with treating humans I am by no means discounting any natural solutions.

Sorry for the brevity and typos. On the cell.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 2:43PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"...current guidelines SPECIFICALLY RECOMMEND..."

Who's guidelines? Which specific studies are those guidelines based on? Which specific situations or areas are these "guidelines" based on?

I have personally recommended considering certain types of wound dressings for cases where oak wilt was an issue, but I am just trying to point out that these "guidelines" are not the holy grail of arboriculture. There are various viewpoints and thoughts on the subject. Maybe I'm just in a grouchy mood, but I just think we need to base our advice on something more than what "they" (undefined) say is right.

Re "neosporin type treatment"...

Liquid copper fungicide, originally mentioned here for this purpose by Spruceman, may be analogous. Neosporin's main thing is the prevention of skin infection. Liquid copper fungicide's main thing, in this application, is to prevent infection (rot) in the wood of trees.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 5:43PM
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There is also a granular product sold in rainy Oregon sold for people to scatter on their roofs to knock down algae and fungus. Active ingredient is zinc sulfate, yet another heavy metal. I have thought about using that on dried wounds too, but being more water leachable than the naphthenate, i went with the copper compound. One application seems to be all that is necessary.

If i were to try the zinc sulfate granules, i would make a maximum saturated water solution (or maybe even isopropyl alcohol) and apply only in hot August to very dry stumps/wood, so it will get sucked into the wood. I doubt applying to a fresh wet wound would be any good!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 9:07PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Ah yes, I now remember the liquid copper fungicide threads from a few years back. They were good reads and might have helped me form my belief that eventually we will find something to coat open wood in trees with.

Also, a proper pruning cut is really not going to be much trouble on most trees if we let nature take its course.

I worry about the large open wounds that stay open for a half a decade or in some cases that will not be encapsulated any time soon. My neighbor pruned off a whole half of a fifty foot tall silver maple. I don't know if it will ever seal off the two foot across wound. Just watching him treat the wood in his deck so it does not rot and split next to the splitting / rotting / rain grabbing hole in the maple gets me thinking. Also, the SAME silly tree has encapsulated an old rusty metal fence post with seemingly no ill effects, so I get thinking about treatments.

I would contend Shigo and CODIT are seem focused on small wounds and are not forward thinking scientifically. Not necessarily wrong, but that open maple seems to have a near 100% chance of rotting from its base under that terrible wound.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 10:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Shigo cut up numbers of trees, often with a chain saw to see what was going on inside them - instead of speculating, unlike most posts on this thread. Not forward thinking? The one book was called Modern Arboriculture for a reason - before his investigations tree work did feature snake oil and la la, to a large extent. Customers were even being talked into filling tree cavities with cement.

Painting something on wounds and then seeing them close over nicely demonstrates nothing if there was not a matching set of unpainted wounds used as controls. Otherwise, how do you know the trees did not do the same thing they would have done without the painting?

Despite evidence to the contrary derived from organized studies going back decades people will still also insist that amending of planting hole back-fill is beneficial - because they planted some trees or shrubs in amended back-fill and they grew afterward.

Besides, they just know amending of planting holes helps.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:58AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

I just do not understand Shigo's reasoning then.

In my back yard there is still the trunk of another silver maple which had a long thin sun split type wound. My chainsaw showed me water was sure getting in and the wood in back of and under the split was rotting.

Same thing with that large white ash which dropped that tree trunk sized branch right next to my GMC Cabrallero a decade back. There was a path right down the center of the trunk water was getting in from that foot across wound. Really it left some nice discolloration.

I just can not wrap my head around how keeping water out of them wounds would not be beneficial.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 10:17AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Moisture is already IN the wood. Adding a moisture barrier holds moisture in rather than keeping it out. Wound dressing is used in grafting, for instance, to keep the grafted area from dehydrating.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 12:51PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Brandon, that is a very good point. Moisture in the heartwood is the enemy of choice here. I do agree you do not want to go out after it rains and seal in the moisture. Now I am thinking about test subjects to see if I can hazard a guess on how long to wait.

Decks which also feature open, verticle grained posts should not be stained for a couple days following cleaning or moderate rain.... Even 6x6 or 8x8 posts have a greater chance to shed moisture from their sides as they are not encased in the live layers of a tree....

Anyone done studies on this? I am not willing to slice my big oak to see how deep the moisture gets in its bad crotch or how long it takes to dry.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 1:34PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Even heartwood will have moisture in it. Living trees don't have dried and cured wood inside them. The heartwood is just sapwood that is mostly stopped up.

No need to slice your big oak!!!!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2013 at 1:48PM
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