Do Nails, Screws, or Staples Hurt Trees?

Many homeowners use nails and screws to hang decorations, lights, and even build treehouses in their trees. But most never stop to think if nails, screws, and staples will hurt their tree. The truth of the matter is, yes, using nails, screws, and staples can hurt your tree and cause serious health issues in the long run. Read on to find out what health issues are caused by using nails, screws, and staples and what you can do to reduce the effect these items have on trees.

Damage Caused By Using Nails, Screws, and Staples on Trees:

Putting nails, screws, and staples into your tree can cause a host of problems ranging from increased disease susceptibility to physical damage all of which can lead to the tree’s death.

Disease and Decay Susceptibility:

The outer bark of the tree is there to protect against disease and decay. When you pierce that outer layer you are creating a wound that can get infected by diseases, fungi, and can be used as an entrance for insects. 

Damages the Cambium:

Nailing, screwing, or stapling anything to your tree pierces the cambium of the tree. The cambium is a very thin layer of growing tissue that produces new cells that become either xylem, phloem or more cambium. Injuring this part of the tree can disrupt water and nutrient flow between the roots and canopy. 

Tree Will Grow Around The Object:

Using nails, screws, and staples on trees can be dangerous for humans as well. As the tree continues to grow it will grow around the nail, screw, or staple and you will not be able to remove it. This makes it dangerous to prune or remove the tree using a chainsaw at a later date. 

Other Ways To Attach Items To Trees:

Strap at least an inch and a half thick (anything thinner can hurt the tree). A thick strap will keep it from digging into the tree and causing physical damage. Just remember to keep an eye on the strap and loosen it as your tree grows over the years.

How To Reduce Negative Health Effects:

Although our Arborists suggest you don’t use nails, screws, or staples on your tree we understand that many people already have and will continue to do so. In these cases, we suggest you follow the steps below in order to reduce the negative health effects your tree will suffer from using these items.

Before you use nails, screws, or staples:

  1. Choose stainless steel nails, screws, or staples. Rust is bad for trees and can lead to a lot of problems down the road. To eliminate the chance of rust use stainless steel items.
  2. Avoid young trees (under 10inches dbh), thin-barked trees, and already weakened trees. These types of trees will have a harder time recovering from the damage caused by nails, screws, or staples.
  3. Make as few holes as possible. The more holes the more stress you put on the tree and the higher the risk of insect and disease issues. Depending on the tree’s size, health, and species, as little as 10 holes could cause enough structural and health issues to kill the tree.

After you use nails, screws, or staples:

After you damage your tree with nails, screws, or staples you will need to help it recover and heal.

5 Most Important Fall Tree Care Tips

Mulching: Mulching insulates the tree’s roots and helps them retain moisture both of which will help your tree recover from physical injuries. Learn more about Mulching

Bio-Stimulants: Bio-stimulants are a great way to give your tree all the nutrients it needs to recover. This organic fertilizer will help keep your tree healthy and improve its “immune system”. Learn more about Bio-Stimulants

Watering: Keeping your tree hydrated can help reduce the effects of physical injury and help the tree recover. Take care to NOT water where the holes are as this will increase the chance of rot and decay. Learn more about Watering.

Need help keeping your tree healthy after using nails, staples, or screws? Give us a call at 703-573-3029 or book a consult using our online booking system

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