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Maple sapling almost snapped in half. Help!  RSS feed

 
Posts: 28
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Hi all,

Back in april, I planted a 2-3 foot maple cultivar (celebration, hybrid of a red and silver maple).  It was humming along and took root nicely, growing about 7 inches rather rapidly.  Last night was a rainy night but not particularly windy.  To my sadness I woke up this morning and found that it has nearly snapped in half!  See the pictures attached.  Some of the bark stripped along with it as well.

I never staked it, subscribing to the philosophy that the young sapling that sustains winds will develop a stronger bark and root system.  It's planted in an area of the yard that doesn't really succumb to high winds either. 

Is there any way I can save this poor thing?  Do I cut where it's already nearly snapped and hope it'll sprout new growth?  Or do I try to stake it and hold it up, hoping for the best?

I'm so disappointed by this.  It was doing so well. 

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I'm guessing a critter caused that damage (deer?) so a larger fence could be in order. 

I'd leave the broken part attached and just stabilize it without moving it much. That way any connective tissue to the leaves can still function.  It should send up new growth from below the break if the roots are established enough. Then I'd cut off the dead parts in the late winter.
 
Mark Oreilley
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Should I try to stake it and wrap the damaged area in tape?  I can probably still prop up the leafy area this way.

I should also add that there are no deer in my neighborhood (leafy part of a city).  Mostly squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional fox.
 
pollinator
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Ive had the same happen to pecan trees. My cows push in the  protective fence to get to them and i find them broke off, or not separated but dangling (like yours). Ive planted apple trees and before i got the fence up, deer cut them in half. They have always healed on their own. Often when i see them, a lower leaf is already starting a new main branch. The only downside has been the new branch coming from below the graft. Not always,  but it has happened. This ,if course, will result in a different tree.
 
Mark Oreilley
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So here's what I did:  I took some brown paper and soaked it, and put a light coat of maple syrup on it before wrapping the damaged area, using this as a "bandage".  My rationale was to use this instead of tape, as wood and sugar is more closely aligned with what the stem is.  Then I supported it using three bamboo skewers as splints, which I taped together with electrical tape.  Then I went ahead and staked it from three spots.  Pictures are attached.

It seems to be sustaining some light wind so far and reasonable stable.  You'll also see some "scoliosis" from the angle at which I took the picture, where the tree started to previously correct itself and grow upward. 

Any thoughts regarding my current setup?
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Mark, I am looking forward to seeing if your creative bandage works . An apple for your out of the box thinking!
 
Mike Jay
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If it wasn't going to make it, the splint won't have made things worse.  If it was going to make it, the splint will probably help.  So it was a win win (in a way). 

I'd still protect it from deer (or children?).  I just don't see a light storm causing that large a twig to break, especially with the bark stripping.
 
Mark Oreilley
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Mark, I am looking forward to seeing if your creative bandage works . An apple for your out of the box thinking!



Yay my first apple.  I hope this actually works.

Mike Jay wrote:If it wasn't going to make it, the splint won't have made things worse.  If it was going to make it, the splint will probably help.  So it was a win win (in a way). 

I'd still protect it from deer (or children?).  I just don't see a light storm causing that large a twig to break, especially with the bark stripping.



That's a good way to look at it.

Before I wrapped it up, it look like something nibbled the bark.  I'm not convinced it's deer, as I've never seen any in the 5+ years I've lived where I am.  Could a squirrel have done this?


Perhaps I'll see how it does until the Fall, then decide whether to re-plant a new one.  I'm guessing I'll know by then whether it's gonna make it.

More significant animal fencing is top priority now.

 
Mike Jay
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Did any of the leaves get eaten?  If not, I'll retract the deer premise.  They usually break branches in the act of pulling leaves off of trees (especially my cherry trees).  So if you don't have any leaf damage, it probably isn't a deer.  Did the broken spot get "broken" as if it was bent until it broke?  Or was there damage at the break like a critter nibbled and weakened it? 

Unless that was a weak spot in the tree (unlikely at that age, I think) my thoughts move more towards either two legged critters (with iphones) or maybe the wind was worse than you thought.
 
Mark Oreilley
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Mike Jay wrote:Did any of the leaves get eaten?  If not, I'll retract the deer premise.  They usually break branches in the act of pulling leaves off of trees (especially my cherry trees).  So if you don't have any leaf damage, it probably isn't a deer.  Did the broken spot get "broken" as if it was bent until it broke?  Or was there damage at the break like a critter nibbled and weakened it? 

Unless that was a weak spot in the tree (unlikely at that age, I think) my thoughts move more towards either two legged critters (with iphones) or maybe the wind was worse than you thought.



Doesn't look like any of the leaves were eaten.  A few fell off but were otherwise untouched. 

I'd say the "two-legged critter with iPhone" theory is also unlikely, as this is in a fenced-in backyard with no easy access and much more obvious things to vandalize en-route to this tree.

It very much looked like it was nibbled on.  What critter would take a few bites like that?  
 
Mike Jay
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I'm not sure...  Where in the world do you live?  The main nibbling culprits in my region would be deer, rabbits and porcupines.  Other culprits could be perfectly angelic children, dogs playing, heavy birds, mean neighbors, drunk wife, weed whackers and aliens.  More hardware cloth could prevent most of those.  If the hardware cloth was as high as the sapling, you may not need the three tiedowns.
 
pollinator
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I would have probably chopped off the top, but I can't quite tell how well the top and bottom are connected.  Will be interesting to see how this progresses for you.
 
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If the graft fails, then no worries, I expect that the tree will send up plenty of new shoots from below the break.

 
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Personally, I would be concerned about internal weakness at that damage point, that will weaken the tree in later life. I have seen similar damage on fruit trees where attempts have been made to "save" a limb or stem, and the end result is an ugly wound and lack of vigour above the damaged point.

My inclination these days would be to give it a nice clean pruning cut below the damage. The tree should resprout from below the cut and you can prune the multiple shoots down to give you a new main leader. I don't know about your particular variety of acer, but here in my garden they are practically unkillable - short of digging up the roots - even for fairly young saplings.
 
Mark Oreilley
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I just snapped a photo of a young eastern redbud on the other side of my property.  I noticed a week or two ago that the bark was chipped.  Looks like the same critter took a nibble!  I wonder what the heck it is.

@Michael Cox, Greg Martin:  Pruning it off was my first inclination, too, but the break is halfway up the trunk and there were no leaves below the break.  It's only been establishing itself for 2-3 months so I'm worried that it won't have enough stored nutrients to survive

@Mike Jay : Eastern PA.  I don't think I've ever seen a porcupine around these parts.

Keep in mind that the attached picture is of the redbud, not the maple:
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A bit late now, but do some research on air layering. It's a method of propagating. You may have been able to turn this to your advantage and made 2 trees out of one
 
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At that age, if the top continues to grow after being splinted, it is likely to be fine. Seedlings and saplings suffer damage near the ground all the time, and still thrive if all else is good. Maybe this injury will be what shortens its life by decades a hundred years from now, or maybe something that has not happened yet will do it. Look at it after a summer of growth and decide if it looks vigorous then. If it is not vigorous at the top, but sprouts have come from below the wound, you might want to prune it.

My take would be to not cover or enclose the wound, but let air and light at it so no fungus or other bug finds a safe enclosed space to get a foothold.
 
Mike Jay
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Glenn Herbert wrote:My take would be to not cover or enclose the wound, but let air and light at it so no fungus or other bug finds a safe enclosed space to get a foothold.


Good point!  I'd remove the splint in a month if it looks like it's stitched itself back together enough.
 
Mark Oreilley
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I definitely can't take the splint off now because it can't support itself without it right now. 

I'll be watching it closely over the next few days.  If I see some vigorous growth below the injury, should I consider cutting it below the wound?
 
Mike Jay
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I guess I'd only cut the top during the summer if the leaves are clearly not helping the plant.  If they all dry up, I'd cut it just below the break.  If they stay green, then they are connected to the roots and helping.  If shoots develop below the break, that's cool, the plant is preferring to start over.  Since the leaves are helping, I'd let them help vs cutting off that photosynthesis supply.  Just my two cents.
 
Mark Oreilley
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1-week update:

The leaves appear to still be doing something and haven't shriveled up.  I also noticed a new branch shooting out below the splint, as seen in the picture, so it's clearly adjusting to the trauma.

I also noticed some ants going up and down the bark, undoubtedly for the sugary bandage I made.  I don't want to take the splint off yet until the 1-month mark, as I'm sure it can't stand alone yet.  I am worried about what the ants are doing..

I'm torn about what to do moving forward.  This tree is intended to be a cornerstone of the yard in the long haul.  Optics are important, so growing reasonably straight is on the desirable list.  If I end up cutting below the injury, is there any way to encourage any new growth to grow straight up?  Or is this all a sign that the bark will heal itself at the injury site and will be barely noticeable in 10 years?

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Mike Jay
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Those leaves look pretty damn good.  I'm guessing it will heal over the bad spot and come through this just fine.  Even if there's a bad spot (or if you cut it and a lower shoot takes over), as the tree puts on weight it will cover up any little bends and jogs with later growth.  I wouldn't worry at all about future tree strength due to this injury.  I bet many majestic maples in the forest with straight trunks started life as crooked saplings.
 
Mark Oreilley
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Oops - I spoke too soon.  Yesterday, likely coinciding with the heat wave in my neck of the woods, the leaves look like they finally quit (picture attached).  I gave it a deep watering but it's still looking like the top half is going to die off.

So it looks like I may be cutting it below the wound after all.  I also attached a picture of some of the new growth.  Sorry for the blurriness, I couldn't get the phone camera to focus on it, but you can see a few new sprouts, and one down near the root ball. 

That said, If I am to be trimming this, how best do I go about encouraging it to run a new shoot upward and ultimately grow up as a reasonably straight tree?

Thanks again for everyone's advice.  This is an awesome place.  I've learned so much lurking on these forms the past few years.
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Mike Jay
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I'd still just leave it alone.  Maybe the leaves will come back, probably they won't.  But cutting it off creates a new wound to heal over.  I'd just let it be.  If the top totally dries up, remove the splint and let it lay on the ground.  The tree will heal that easier than a fresh cut.  Then in January, cut off the trunk a half inch above the nicest shoot (which should be a few feet tall after growing all summer).  I'd also trim off most or all of the remaining shoots so that the one you leave becomes the new tree.
 
Mark Oreilley
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Thanks again, Mike, for the great advice.

I just removed the splint and found some new growth trying to sprout up underneath my 'bandage' near the wound, in addition to the new leaves taking shape (pictured).

Regarding letting it be, I'm a little concerned that the weight of the top is pulling the healthy stem off to the side and would encourage growth that would then be crooked when I would finally cut off the top.  Are there any more compelling reasons to wait until January to trim this off?  I'm very tempted to do this right now.
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Mike Jay
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I guess if you want to cut it at or above the break it probably wouldn't cause too much more trauma.  I think if you cut it below the break it would possibly cause more stress (that's why you'd do that in the winter).  I'd probably still wait a few more days in case the juice from those dying leaves is helping the roots out.  It probably isn't but I'm not a botanist so I'd wait just to be safe.
 
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