not blooming, but (was) beautiful

pinus-bungeana-barkIT’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.

Pinus bungeana with sapsucker damage

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.

  1. Andrew Ritchie says:

    Wisdom at its best, Margaret. And even if you got rid of Suspect Number One, there would be other suspects (his siblings) waiting to swoop down and take over. I’ve known too many people who run their gardens like concentration camps, and it’s so sad on so many fronts.

    A section on pests, and how to handle them (ie: come to terms with them) might be a good addition to the site.


  2. Kitt says:

    Wow, that’s some serious damage. But better the tree than your siding. We have flickers here that do the same. They’re dreadful on stucco.

  3. Karen T says:

    Oh, yow. But I can’t help but also be amazed at the groovy (sorry) pattern that sapsucker has created. Nature is endlessly amazing (even at its most frustrating), isn’t it?

  4. Curtis says:

    That sorry Sap Sucker. Very true if you do run him off. He’ll just go to another tree and do the same. Hopefully he’ll leave for good someday.

  5. High Valley Farmgirl says:

    Not blooming but (IS) beautiful, IMHO. Curtis’s comment, “Hopefully he’ll leave for good someday” brings to mind “A Minor Bird” by Robert Frost: “I have wished a bird would fly away, And not sing by my house all day; Have clapped my hands at him from the door, When it seemed as if I could bear no more. The fault must partly have been in me. The bird was not to blame for his key. And of course there must be something wrong, In wanting to silence any song.”

  6. margaret says:

    @All of you: Of course now that I have outed him online, he hasn’t visited “his” tree today at all. Did one of you email him that he is under observation????

  7. boodely says:

    I gasped at the picture. It is intense damage yet beautiful at the same time. The pattern reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy.

  8. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says:

    The first thing to do is ask, Why? Is this just more mating behavior, or is he looking for food? And what food does he eat? And is the damage that “food” does worse than the damage the bird does going after the food?

  9. starr cunningham says:

    i have a redbud tree thats under seige. borers,i think are eating out the bottom. somebody is literally stripping bark off the middle and higher branches have the woodpecker artwork going on. the comments here helped alot. i got your book. wow it has a very teacher student kungfu feel to it. example, put down the picture catalogs, weedhopper, become one with your zone. you make me feel like i can do it. thanks

  10. Rhody says:

    I have had success with cutting up a Mylar balloon and tying the strips to the object of the attack. The strips are shiny and flutter in the slightest wisp of wind.The mylar is durable over a whole season and one balloon makes a lot of strips. Also, it is very inexpensive. Hello dollar store! I had a Downy who fell madly in love with my garage and this worked.

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