Though I’m no arborist, I have helped my fair share of damaged trees. This hurricane season has broken the limbs and trunks on a lot of beloved trees – and I’d like to see people save the ones they can.
“Thought you might have some insight on how to handle a badly wounded tree. Hurricane Irma ripped my neem trees lower branches off and took a sizeable chunk out of her bark. Should I smear vaseline on the wound and lightly bandage to keep bugs from getting into the tree? How would you handle such a problem? Lost almost all of my bananas, papayas and all the rest of my fruit trees were sadly laying on the ground, looked like they went 10 rounds with Tyson in his prime! We’ve restaked most of our trees, hopefully they’ll make it. Have been working on my fruit forest for a few years now, so it was devastating at first to see the destruction.”
Don’t coat them with anything. Just saw the broken branches/trunks off a little bit below the damage. Make the cuts on a slight diagonal. The trees will heal as they can and put out new growth. When they do, select the best-looking shoots and eliminate the rest. Since they’re a few years old, the root system should give them plenty of strength to regrow.
Irma caused some damage in The Great South Florida Food Forest Project. Fortunately, my sister Christi (Miss Yamfit) was there to help clean up after the damage – and take some pictures I could share here.
Tithonia diversifolia plants were knocked around:
Moringa trees were snapped and stripped:
A chaya shrub was pushed to the ground:
And, worst of all, our beloved acerola cherry was blown over.
This is what it looked like before:
And this is what it looks like now:
The tree was blown to the ground and the trunk partially snapped. Christi called to ask what they could do to save it and I recommended cutting it back to a few feet tall, propping it back up, keeping it watered so it’s not under stress, and praying over it.
Dad and I planted this tree back in 2013 after he removed an old schefflera from the corner of the house. It was one of his favorites, bearing an abundance of sweet cherries off and on all year. We’re all hoping it lives.
The fallen chaya isn’t a big deal, as chaya reproduces easily via cuttings. And the rest of the mess? Well, it doesn’t seem like much compared to Dominica, Puerto Rico, Texas, Barbuda and the many other places where serious storm damage took place.
If you have a busted up tree, prune it back to good wood, prop it up if you can, take really good care of it and hope for the best. Some species will spring right back – others won’t. Time will tell.