The Q&A Archives: How To Repair An Exposed Tree Trunk

Question: While the excavater was clearing our lot for the foundation of our new house, he came too close to an adolescent tree (approx. 7 inch diameter) and ripped "up" the bark on one side of it. No roots were damaged. However, there is now a nasty "strip" of bark -- about 3 feet in length-- off the side of the tree. Should my husband and I 1) remove the strip of bark, and 2) coat the exposed "raw" area of the tree with some substance? (The "raw" portion does not appear to be punctured, only exposed.)
If so, what? Can we wait until this spring to do this? Or should we be acting immediately. The weather here in Maryland is cold in the wintertime.

Answer: Unfortunately, the only way for this to repair is to wait until the tree is able to heal itself naturally. You may trim off the strip of bark neatly, but that is really all you can do. Recent research has shown that the wound paint is not helpful in most circumstances. In the coming year, make sure that the tree receives extra water if there is a drought, and consider fertilizing it in early spring to help it maintain vigor.

I should probably also note that construction damage can occur underground as well as above ground. Construction often kills trees indirectly by changing drainage, wind and light patterns, and also by running over and compacting the soil around tree roots. Tree roots can extend far beyond the "drip line" of a tree, so damage and environmental changes can be extensive even while the tree you see above ground has not been touched.

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