Feb.3 Life is hard for young trees

In our forest especially…


This young hickory was squeezed in its youth by a Japanese honeysuckle vine. Thankfully it survived – but  with a twist that will last all its days. I’ve never seen a mature tree that was a victim of this vine. Does this mean the vine hasn’t been in our forest that long, or that trees subjected to this treatment don’t live a long time?


Another squeezed tree, a sassafras. In this case the strangulation inspired side shoots to emerge, perhaps anticipating the death of the upper part of the trunk. I removed the vine from this one several years ago, in an ongoing effort to rescue as many small trees as possible from a viney grasp.



Japanese Honeysuckle is a twiner, and once it finds a tree to climb its entire stem behaves like a spiraling tendril. It’s racing for the light up high, to flower and make fruit. Note the green leaves in February – with this mild winter it gets a longer growth period.


Black cherry revival – before and after. The vines were removed and drooping side branches trimmed, resulting in a relatively undamaged tree, just with a bit of a lean.


Another way to not grow old – a young black cherry and hackberry, both buck rubbed. Bucks do quite a bit more than rub their velvet off on trees. Under a heavy dose of testosterone they spar with, shove, and batter saplings and trees up to 4 or 5 inches wide. They trade scents, leaving their own, and taking with them the aroma of cedar, spicebush, black cherry or sassafras (favorites for rubbing).



Black cherries in particular are all the rage for rubbing during this season’s rut,  I’ve seen at least 15 of this size. When more than half the cambium is removed the tree is done for. Even if it’s less than that, the future tree is quite compromised and may succumb to rot. Easy prediction – between browsing and rubbing, no more black cherry making it past youth in this forest.



Rubbed oaks are seldom seen in our forest, likely because young oaks are so very few. Was enjoying the colors on this young red oak, when I noticed the bare white wood at the base of the trunk. It was already done for.

The last category of unfortunate trees has no images to go with it. These heavily deer browsed trees under 4 feet tall are so tiny and spindly I did not succeed in getting a good picture of one. Though they are small, it’s likely they may be much older than they look. We’ll just have to imagine them thriving in some faraway forest where the hazards are fewer.





5 thoughts on “Feb.3 Life is hard for young trees

  1. Pingback: 1/19 Winter Deer – one forest fragment

  2. Mark Jones

    Have you any experience using ‘tree shelters’, those plastic tubes used for protecting recently planted trees, on naturally occurring young trees? I’m wondering if this might work better than surrounding them in old cut barberry and wineberry ‘fences’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oneforestfragment

      We use homemade plastic cages on planted trees and shrubs that are tasty to deer (not Spicebush thankfully). The problem with plastic tubes is they only work till a tree outgrows the tube – and deer can reach up to 5 1/2 feet, maye 6 if it’s a large buck. The most affordable solution I’ve come up with is using 6 foot wooden stakes, 3 of them placed in a triangle around the young tree, and wrapped with some version of sturdy deer or garden fencing, then zip tied closed. You need a 4 to 5 foot length of 4 foot high plastic fencing per tree. We aim for 5 1/2 feet in height, and leave the bottom open – deer don’t bother them there. To prevent rabbit chewing, we staple a folded 1.5 foot length of paper tree wrap around the trunk.

      The brush shelters are still very useful for mass plantings as with shrubs, where you don’t want to do a single cage for every plant. And they allow tasty herbaceous plants to thrive unmolested.


  3. Mark Jones

    Thank you for the advice! The woods we know own was ‘harvested’ about 8 years ago (A decision I was not part of, and bemoan at every opportunity 🙂 ), and I was shocked on discovering that after all that time, not one oak, hickory, or maple sprout has made past its first year. In fact only tulip poplar and American sycamore seems to withstand deer. I will definitely try your wooden stake approach!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oneforestfragment

      Sounds like you have a typical deer-infected landscape! The plastic tubes are useful if you’re protrecting young seedlings, but when they outgrow the tubes they’ll still need the cages. You can also get good-sized affordable bare root trees from places like Cold Stream Farm Nursery in Michigan.

      Liked by 1 person

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