My post is to ask how to best protect a conifer that has suffered a lot but continues to be a tree of great significance on a private property in eastern North Carolina. I've had the good fortune to be permitted to climb this enduring tree. I'm told it is a white pine, more than 50 years old, that survived an otherwise devastating fire, 50 years back, and having 12 feet of its trunk buried during massive landscaping, AND suffered snapping of the central apical stem, some 33 feet above the current ground level. Because a portion of the canopy is missing, it has the look of a giant nest. It has been affectionately named \"the Lookout Tree\", overseeing approaches by water to the property.
By way of background, it's well known that conifers can accomplish,
\"deposition of ... terpenes/resins\"
, per Kevin T. Smith, PhD, Plant Physiologist, USDA Forest Service, to the ITRDB Dendrochronology Forum, 09/28/2000. Essentially, conifers produce sap as a self-defense mechanism. Others mention, also within the ITRDB, that the sap is highly flammable. A portion of the injury is protected by a thick bandage of sap. I considering having a prosthetic limb carved to mechanically cap the area. So, my question becomes:
Should the remainder of the injury showing evidence of rot be filled with a matrix of sap and wood fiber availed from local arborists, or should a commercial matrix, (tree bandage and wood filler) be used?
Neither mix should be used. Filling cavities went out of practice in the '30s. Alex Shigo has shared a lot of information about how trees compartmentalize decay to keep it in the old wood.
About the only thing that you can do for the tree is to bust out any of the loose chunks of rotten wood. Do this only if you can without damaging any solid wood.
doing anything to increase the health of the tree makes the most sense. If it is in a natural wooded setting you could skip mulching. If not, mulch with about a 5\" layer of coarse chips, preferably from the same species. Keep the mulch ring away from the trunk, think donut not volcano. Water if you can.
Does the same apply to deciduous trees? The first tall tree I ever climbed back in 1983 has decay on one side of the trunk at the base from where someone had a bonfire too close to its trunk many years ago. The dead cambium and a good deal of the heart wood on that side has rotted and been eaten away by insects over the years. The decay has also spread a couple of feet further up the trunk inside the living cambium layer above. the tree is still structurally sound but could the decay be halted for several years by applying a weather and insect-proof coating of some sort to the exposed wood while some of the cambium grows back? If so then what would you recommend?
Thanks, Tom. I'll definitely google the terms. I've seen many references to Dr. Alex Shigo on websites and in book reviews. I've read about compartmentalization. It will be an interesting pursuit to study tree physiology and metabolism in earnest. I'll relate your recommendation about mulching to the property owners as they might otherwise be inclined to make a very clean sweep of the area near the tree. So, no cap, right? Gee, and I went out and bought a gallon of tree bandage. Well, I'll fix my roof instead!