When you walk or drive around your community, do you ever notice tree stakes still attached to trees, year after year? These stakes are called “transfer stakes” and support the tree trunk for transport from the nurseries. They are not meant to stay with the tree when planted. Improper staking or prolonged staking of trees is a major cause of “girdling,” also called “ring-barking”. Girdling is the complete removal of a strip of bark from around the entire circumference of either a branch or trunk of a woody plant. A girdled trunk restricts the movement of water and nutrients to the upper canopy, as wells as the transfer of sugars from the leaves to other parts of the tree. Girdling can also occur from string trimmers or mowers accidently striking the trunk. Girdling can result in the death of the area above the girdle and/or even death of the tree over time.
The tree transfer stakes should be removed and replaced with properly installed wooden lodge poles or steel stakes, 12 or more inches from the trunk to help support your newly planted tree. They should support the tree no longer than 6 to 12 months or until the tree is stable and has established its root system, then removed to prevent trunk or branch girdling. Care should also be taken when using lawn equipment around tree trunks. If you’re concerned your tree may be afflicted with girdling, consult one of our professional arborists.