Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Hollow Tree? No Need to Panic!


It is not unusual to find a hole full of rotten wood in the trunk of a living tree or even to find it completely hollow. Formerly it was believed that in such a case, you could save the tree by scraping away the rotten wood and digging into healthy wood to “eliminate the rot.” However, we now know that trees are able to protect themselves from rot by forming stronger, more resistant cells around the wound (this is called compartmentalization). By cutting into healthy wood in an effort to clean the wound, you’ll be removing the tree’s natural protection and may even cause the rot to expand. And it is not necessary either to fill the hole with concrete, bricks, etc., or to paint it wound dressing, two outdated techniques that cause more harm than good.

It’s important to understand that the heartwood of a large tree is dead anyway. It is only the bark and a thin layer under the bark (the sapwood) that is alive. Healthy heartwood may, in some cases, help the tree to better withstand wind, but not always. You often see hollow trees that are very strong. And a hollow trunk certainly doesn’t mean the tree is dying! It can sometimes survive another 20, 40 or 60 years, even a century, depending on the species, as long as it is structurally sound. To check that out, you’ll need the opinion of an experienced arborist.

If the tree is deemed unsound and, because of its placement, could do damage when it falls, you’ll have to have it removed. Otherwise, just leave it alone. Holes in trees often host all sorts of interesting animals and birds (a hollow Norway maple at my former residence was once home a family of flying squirrels, much to the delight of my kids!) and hollow trees are part of a normal and healthy environment. So in most cases, when you realize that one of your trees is hollow, just let Mother Nature do her job: she knows better than you do what to do!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Pingback: When A Trunk Cracks… | Laidback Gardener

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