A tree assassin is at work in Nanaimo’s Eaglepoint neighbourhood, and Roberta Bogle is trying to understand why.
Last winter, Bogle and her husband Doug Anthony, while working along their fence line, noticed somebody had girdled three cedar trees. This past weekend, they discovered a 10-metre cedar on their front lawn had been girdled three metres up the trunk.
“Somebody climbed up and used a saw to destroy our tree,” she said. “We’re a little flummoxed as to why.”
Last year, Roberta and Doug removed a large pine and another cedar that had failed along the fence line, but they never thought to look for signs of vandalism.
Now they’re convinced somebody in their own neighbourhood, perhaps a person seeking a better ocean view from their home, is responsible.
“It’s a little unnerving to think somebody who lives around here might be responsible, but what other explanation is there?” she said.
Girdling, also called ring barking, is the removal of a strip of bark from around either the trunk of the tree or a branch. By removing the bark, which consists of cork cambium, phloem, and xylem, sap is unable to travel up the tree to higher branches, cutting them off from their food supply. Over time, the tree dies.
In the case of the Roberta and Doug’s trees, thin, rough slices were made around the circumference of each tree, likely with a small handsaw.
Alan Kemp, City of Nanaimo arbourist, said once a tree has been girdled there is little chance for survival.
“It’s like cutting off its circulation,” said Kemp. “If it’s not caught right away, then there is little hope for the tree.”
Bogle said it’s difficult to tell when the fourth cedar was vandalized.
“It’s not at eye level, and it’s not something you really look for. Doug just happened to look up the tree while he was sitting on the porch and noticed it last weekend.”
In an effort to save the trees, they created a sawdust and gelatin mix on the advice of Kemp, applied it to the affected area, and tightly wrapped it with self-adhesive tape in an effort to get the tree’s food once again moving upward.
The diagnosis is grim.
Kemp said he does occasionally see acts of vandalism against trees, the most notable being young trees that were girdled near the Port Theatre a few years ago.
Fortunately, the damage was discovered quickly, and immediate grafts using the tree’s own sawdust helped save them.
“It really amazes me that people would go to such lengths to, in this case, get a better view,” said Kemp. “It’s obviously somebody who knows what they’re doing.”
Bogle said that while the death of the trees is unfortunate, it’s disconcerting that trees are being vandalized closer to their house, and that a person living nearby might be responsible.
“We feel like we’ve been violated, these are our trees,” she said. “And I admit we’ve walked around trying to see who might benefit the most from these particular trees being removed, who might get a better view of the ocean. It’s not something you want to have to do in your own neighbourhood.”