In addition to affecting the aesthetic appeal of a tree, bark damage also affects the health of the tree, and if severe, it can even kill the tree. A tree’s bark protects it from pests and diseases, and it also shields the underlying phloem layer, which transport water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. When the bark is damaged, this circulation is interrupted. Depending on the severity of the damage, there are various way you can heal the wound.
Reattaching the Bark
If 25 to 50 percent of the circumference of the tree is damaged, you might be able to heal the wound by reattaching the bark. You can only do this if you’re able to recover the broken off pieces of bark. The pieces should be intact so you can easily piece them together and put them back on the tree in the area where they came from. Tie a burlap cloth around the trunk of the tree to hold the pieces in place. You can even also duct tape or a sturdy strap to hold the pieces in place. In about three months, the pieces will have reattached to the tree, and the flow of nutrients and water will be restored.
Cleaning the Wound
If you have 25 to 50 percent of bark damage to the circumference of the tree, but are unable to recover the broken off bark, cleaning the wound is your best bet to repair the tree. When you clean the wound you’re basically removing the rough, torn edges that might rip further otherwise. A clean wound makes it easier for new callus to grow to cover the wound. With a hammer and chisel, chip around the jagged edges of the wound. Make clean cuts that only remove the damaged bark and don’t go so deep that they damage the wood. Avoid making sharp edges; aim for an oval shape.
Bridge Grafting the Wound
If there’s more than 50 percent damage to the circumference of the tree, bridge grafting is an option. If you don’t want to pay a professional to do this, you can do it yourself. During this process you’re basically creating a vertical bridge of twigs over the wound that restores the tree’s circulation. After making inlay cuts in the healthy bark at the top and opposing bottom of the wound, you cut the ends of a twig in a slanted manner. You then insert the twig into the inlay cuts with the flat end down. Do this all around the wounded circumference of the tree, spacing the twigs about 3 inches apart. Afterward, paint grafting compound over the graft unions and tie burlap cloths around the tree to secure the area.
Forest Keepers Tree Care: Repairing Damaged Tree Bark
P. Allan Smith: Deer Damaged Tree Trunk
New Mexico State University, Southwest Yard and Garden: Repairing Damaged Tree Bark
Michigan State University Extension: Bridge Grafting as a Life-Saving Procedure for Trees
How to Do Things; Wilmer Atkinson Co.