Have you noticed any spots like this on your trees or shrubs?
With the abundance of snow and lack of food sources available to deer and rabbits, our plants tend to fall victim to this damage known as girdling.
Girdling occurs when animals chew the outer layer of bark off a branch, harming the cambium layer.
The cambium layer is responsible for transportation of nutrients through the xylem and phloem. Once this layer has been chewed through all the way around the branch or trunk, the transportation becomes disrupted and the nutrients fail to continue on past the chewed area.
Unfortunately, once this happens the tree will slowly die. In some cases, a shrub can make a comeback if pruned below the girdled area.
If you’ve noticed a small area has been chewed on, but isn’t a complete ring around the branch or trunk, your plant should come out unharmed.
The best way to prevent girdling is to use plastic trunk protectors or paper tree wrap from the ground up to the lowest branch. The best time to apply the protective barrier is in fall, but if you’re noticing damage can be applied mid-winter. White plastic trunk protectors can be left on trees until the bark has matured.
It should be noted that sometimes a tree will leaf out after being girdled due to stored nutrients; eventually it will die.