Girdling Damage On Techny Arborvitae

Girdling Damage On Techny Arborvitae
Girdling Damage On Techny Arborvitae

Girdling of a woody plant removes or injures a tree or shrub bark layer and the transport tissue just behind the bark, xylem, and phloem, which is vital for the plant's survival. Complete girdling on a tree trunk can be fatal, whereas girdling on multistemmed shrubs will often survive due to sprouts that can develop just below the girdle points.

Xylem tissue is responsible for moving water and nutrients from the roots upward to the leaves. The phloem is responsible for carrying water and nutrients downward to the roots. When the phloem has been completely severed, a slow starvation of the roots will eventually kill the plant.

Winters in cold climates can be challenging enough for plants due to harsh temperatures, so having girdling damage after a long winter can be incredibly frustrating.

After winter, damage from girdling is only sometimes immediately noticeable. As the growing season progresses, dead leaf tissue above the girdling point will slowly appear.

Pruning out the damaged stems above the girdling point is the only solution.

Our video here shows the process of removing damaged branches on several girdled Techny Arborvitaes. The damage was minimal in this case, and the pruned Techny's looked as good as new.

On the other hand, this next video shows girdling damage on Techny Arborvitae so severe, that plant removal was the only option.

The most common rodents that cause girdling in my area are rabbits and voles (field mice). Arborvitae, Burning Bush (Euonymus), and Apple trees are the most vulnerable species. The voles also seem to love creeping junipers' protective winter cover and are happy to feed on the bark there, too.

One of the most effective ways to protect trees from rodents is to use metal hardware cloth around the main trunk or plastic tree guards. I have seen rodents chew through plastic but they are much easier to work with when installing and removing. On multi-stemmed plants, this is only sometimes possible and rodent baits may be the only solution to protect valuable plants.

Check out this blog post for more information on girdling.

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