IT’S NOT A FLOWER, but it’s beautiful. And it can make that claim 365 days a year. The plant with the peeling, camouflage-pattern bark is Pinus bungeana, the lacebark pine, a long-needled conifer that rates a place in more home landscapes, a true four-season plant. Well, at least it was until a yellow-bellied sapsucker moved in on my beauty. Want to see the little devil’s handiwork?
Under normal circumstances, the bark on P. bungeana’s muscular trunk begins to peel off as the plant matures, and leaves behind a camouflage pattern of greens and yellows and tans. By pruning out some of its evergreen branches and opening up the structure of the plant, you can get a great view of the show from every angle, every day.
Mine was really shaping up, getting to be a proper tree. And then HE showed up, the same male sapsucker who spent much of the winter in one of my older magnolias, the same guy who drums on the siding outside my bedroom to stake a claim to the territory in spring, to act really macho. In just a few days of visiting the pine, he’d opened up holes in a large section of the formerly beautiful trunk.
So what do I do? Covering the trunk with burlap or hardware cloth is said to deter the bird, as is the application of Tanglefoot (a gooey substance that does what it says) above and below the wounds…meaning where the bird will place his feet when drilling next time. No way I am doing the latter, or worse yet going Annie Oakley style and shooting up the place (the other “solution” you read about in old literature). Even if sapsuckers were not protected, no way.
I suppose I’ll act the way I often act when forces bigger than me (or at least louder) come to bear on my reality. I’ll let it go, and see what happens. Even if I succeeded in moving him off the pine I don’t think this bird is done with me quite yet.