How Stakes Hurt Trees

Every day on my way to work I pass this unusual tree in Schenley Park.  It was planted with care, probably more than 40 years ago, when stakes were provided to stabilize the young tree.

But the stakes were never removed.  The tree grew and grew.  The trunk had nowhere to go except outward.  Slowly it engulfed the stakes.

Now this tree’s in a world of hurt.  The rubber guide and wires disappeared long ago.  The stake on the right is still outside the trunk but only a short length of wire is visible (below).


The other stake is completely surrounded.  Its top is inside the trunk.

And now the stakes can never be removed.  Though they’ve created a weakness in the trunk, they’re the only support the tree has at that spot so they have to stay.  The damage is done.

It’s too late to save this tree, but you can help others.  Examine staked trees to make sure the guides are not girdling the trunk.  Remove the stakes 1 to 2 years after planting.

For more information see Bartlett’s plant health guide for newly planted trees.

(photos by Kate St. John)


3 thoughts on “How Stakes Hurt Trees

  1. We had a huge, very old willow tree in the yard of the house I grew up in. Sometime long before my parents bought the house, someone lodged an old sprinkler on the tree between the trunk and a large branch. Well, whoever put it there forgot about the sprinkler, and the tree trunk ended up growing over three-quarters of the thing. When you looked at it, only the part where you connected the hose to the sprinkler was visible. If the tree is still there, I’m sure it’s entirely engulfed in it by now.

    It was this style of sprinkler in case you’re curious:

    1. It’s along Greenfield Rd at the big bend. It’s set back from the sidewalk pretty far so you have to keep an eye out for it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *