another hit: my accident-prone lacebark pine

lacebark [ine snapped branchCAN A TREE BE ACCIDENT-PRONE? I fear my Pinus bungeana, or lacebark pine, is just that, always finding itself in harm’s way. And here we go again:

This long-needled pine, grown for its beautiful, peeling bark that resembles camouflage fabric, just gets better with age—or is supposed to, as long as it lives that long. But now in addition to substantial disfigurement left by an insistent male yellow-bellied sapsucker a year or so ago, my beautiful bark has giant divots in it, too (you can see both in the top photo). Weren’t the woodpecker’s rows of small holes and the oozing, now-blackened sap that poured out from them, enough for the one poor tree (and gardener)?

Apparently not.

A storm with high winds took two large branches and one smaller one from the pine a week or so ago, snapping them right off and taking a meaty chunk of trunk along.

I’m starting to feel like this tree and I are not meant to be. Ever have a plant that just seemed like it wanted out? All I could tell myself in the way of consolation was this: holiday garland. And that’s what the severed limbs have temporarily become. Waste not, want not, right? Onward.

lacebark pine loses limbs

  1. Johanna says:

    Wow, looks like two big branches. How does it look from a distance — is it all out of balance now, or still ok? Is lacebark pine typically fragile? I have a huge willow in my yard, and it constantly sheds branches. Not really very attractive, but tons of birds in it and I can’t afford to take it down.

    Anyway, I bet the garland smells great, so that is a consolation.

  2. catjane says:

    I have a redbud, ‘Forest Pansy,’ with the same problem. A “death wish” is how I describe it. It has a definite bonsai quality about it, now; but it “keeps on keepin’ on.”

  3. Balsamfir says:

    Its aphids here, and viburnum leaf beatles. I gave up on my opulum roseum and got rid of it this summer.

    It looks rather hollow, your pine, and maybe the sapsuckers were finding bugs?

  4. gail says:

    Weird…I just planted a lacebark pine this fall and when my dog had a play date in the back yard a few weeks later they crashed into it and broke off a branch. I hope that’s not a sign that I’ll have bad luck also!

  5. Ailsa says:

    Oh how sad! I know one is not supposed to dress a tree wound but certainly in a case like this perhaps packing it (since it looks gaping) with something (?) might keep it from succumbing to even more damage and disease. I guess this pine is soft-wooded like others and requires a more wind-sheltered spot…
    It makes me think of Tom Thomson’s Jack Pine painting — talk about windswept!

  6. Marion says:

    I have a couple of plain old Eastern White Pine out back and when it’s below freezing and the wind blows it sounds like rife shots going off. They are not ‘speciman’ trees, so I just clean up the branches and life goes on.

  7. jeff-nhn says:

    I have a Sycamore tree in my front yard that I feel the same way about. But trees are resilient and heal themselves. I was told by an arborist over 10 years ago (when we had a horrible ice storm) my tree needed to be cut down as the wound wouldn’t heal from a large branch breaking away from the tree. He was wrong, the wound healed and the tree continues to grow strong and healthy.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jeff. I’m not sure if I hope that this guy lives or dies…the sapsucker damage is pretty major on its own, and now this. But I am taking a wait and watch approach, and we shall see what the tree wants and reach an agreement between us. :) See you soon again.

  8. SteveP says:

    I don’t know what it looks like from a distance, but don’t be so sure that the plant is a loss. I have several 12ft rhododendrons (inherited from previous owners) that looked overfed and absolutely characterless. A few winters ago, the overshading large white pine shed a major branch to the rhodies’ detriment. They looked forlorn for a season, but they’ve come back and now look more interesting, even elegant, than ever. (Now if I could just soften their pepto-bismal/turkish taffy pink.)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, SteveP. Yes, I think it will live (though the cavities left behind are astonishingly deep), but what a mess it is. I may go wild and reshape the whole thing come spring or later, once I let it have some time to heal its newest wounds and I see what it decides to do in general itself. There may be other weak branches, who knows, and there is still all of winter ahead. Sigh. See you soon!

  9. Becky says:

    When we bought our house 3 yrs ago, we inherited the largest Bradford Pear I have ever seen. Weeelllll…

    The trunks are beautifully pecked into pegboard by the woodpeckers.

    The local utility company sent their tree butchers around two years ago when we were conveniently out of town.

    Then, Huricane Ike blew thru Cincinnati last Sept. and took a huge branch off. We can now see down into the center where the tree is hollow between the four or five main stems.

    This past October, I took the most incredible pictures of the georgeous fall foliage colors on my Bradord Pear tree. I hope the new Cleveland Pears in the other side of the yard learn how to colorup before the Bradford is gone.

  10. Walter Lott says:


    When I become disillusioned with my suburban life, I reach into the bookshelf for my copy of E.B. White’s letters. Occasionly, if I’m lucky, a piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg will be tucked away at the bottom of the editorial page of the morning Times. What these two dissimilar writers have in common is an unusual awareness of nature’s details. Recently, I’ve added your blog to my list of sustaining reading. Isn’t this what gardening is all about, observation. How often we go through life without experiencing what is in front of us.
    Anyway, thanks for your diligence in keeping up your blog. I look forward to reading your work in progress.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Walter, and thank you for such an exceptional compliment. I agree that the main practice within gardening (life?) is one of observation, yes, and sit in my chair these days mostly staring out at what is unfolding, things I never got to see before I left the city (but that I expect were always going on “behind my back”). I hope to hear from you again soon.

      @Bob: Almost forgot to say, I think the tree has been with me about six or eight years, and was perhaps 7 feet tall when it arrived.

  11. Toni Cox says:

    Ouch! Those Lacebarks are fragile, aren’t they.
    Love your question :
    “I’m starting to feel like this tree and I are not meant to be. Ever have a plant that just seemed like it wanted out?”
    Gardeners end up having the most experiential, in-depth, pragmatic understanding of their ecosystem possible. A world of tests can’t do better!

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