Don’t Dress Tree Wounds | Benefits are a Myth


My dad always had an aerosol can of Tree-Kote in the garage. I remember he used to call it his “tar can.”  It lived with all the other paints and solvents under the workbench, and while I can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure we only owned one tar can- the same one- throughout my entire childhood. As an eight-year old boy in Michigan, I was still an apprentice gardener in my father’s eye. He would cut a limb and send me running for the tar can. Still too young to apply it myself, he would only let me shake the can. I watched his fat fingers lumber over the plastic nozzle, then he would take a couple passes at the fresh cut on the tree… “tsch, tsch, tshchtchtchtcht,” and that was it. Over before it started. The thick black liquid would instantly transform the beautiful fresh-scented tree wound into a toxic oozing field of noxious liquid asphalt. After another quick squirt or two for good measure, dad capped the tar can and gave it back to me. Running back to the garage, I would give it a few more shakes, just to hear the “clickclack-clickclack-clickclack” of the ball bearing inside the can one last time before putting the can away until next year, when we did it all over again.  

As it turns out, the only good that came from that old can of Tree-Kote was the memories of my days as an apprentice gardener, with my dad at the helm.

It’s actually a myth, that dressing a tree wound with a synthetic liquid sealant will protect the tree from insect or fungal invasion.

Like the snake oil salesmen of long ago, these manufacturers lay claim to many benefits, and some creative uses besides just organic applications. Some call their product “an artificial bark,” while others boast that their product is “all natural.” How nice. Keep reading though, and you’re led to believe the products can also repair asphalt and stucco cracks; gutter repair and roof leaks.


Consider this; there are petroleum-based aerosol-propelled chemicals in the can. It seems a stretch to imagine this as an “all natural artificial bark.” There is no scientific evidence that points to how the wound dressings repel insects and stop rot.

It is best to let millions of years of evolution do the heavy lifting for the wounded tree. They have natural built-in mechanisms for fighting the onslaught of insects and fungal disease. Let nature take its course, instead of reaching for the man-made synthetic solution.


Have you used a synthetic wound application after you cut a limb or branch off a tree in your yard? 

Editor’s Note: photo by

This article is the fourth in a series of 26 consecutive articles, as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the whole month of April. Tomorrow, I’ll post an article with a title that begins with the letter “E”… So goes the rest of the alphabet, through the end of the month.

In closing, I have a little challenge for you. Because the letters “X” “Q” and “Z” pose a challenge of their own, send me a title idea beginning with those letters. If I choose to write your title, I’ll send you a small prize to show my appreciation.  Use the comments box below, or email your title to


7 thoughts on “Don’t Dress Tree Wounds | Benefits are a Myth

  1. Interesting read. Unfortunatelyfor me a huge branch fell on Christmas Day. The tree turns out to be damaged from vermin, but also the effects of an ice storm 1 year ago. Given the pre-existing conditions, I plan to chisel down the trunk and preserve the bark as much as possible. Research shows that final action should be to source a can of Spectracide from Lowes in hopes that it will prevent future pest attack, and give my wife the peace of mind that her tree is not a goner!

  2. What a great post Chuck. I agree with this tree care fact and have found leaving the limb alone after cutting (or otherwise wounded) and “Let nature take its course, instead of reaching for the man-made synthetic solution” works wonders! Cheers, Gina

    • Gina, thank you. The arborists I’ve spoken with tell me that trees cannot ‘heal,’ by definition. Bark and cellulose just continue to grow right over the damaged area and encapsulate it, making for a new impermeable surface. We humans love to apply a ‘quick fix,’ or bandage damaged areas and have been duped into thinking the same would apply for trees.

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