Wildfires have been raging in some parts of the United States. As a result, some homeowners need to deal with burn damage to trees.

Factors that determine a tree’s chances for achieving a suitable level of recovery

• The extent to which exposure to the flames and smoke has damaged all or part of the tree
• The length of the period during which the affected tree had to deal with dehydrating conditions
• The amount of time that has past since the tree’s exposure to the fire’s heat and smoke

How to test for the likelihood of a comeback?

Take a few small pieces of bark from the trunk and the larger limbs. Study the color of the wood that is under the bark. If it is green or white, then the chances for a comeback are good.

Steps that a gardener should take, when dealing with burn-damaged trees

• Water them slowly; utilization of soaker hoses is encouraged.
• Study the condition of the ground. If organic matter was burned, then add compost to the soil around the burn-damaged plant.
• Remove from the tree any dead or hazardous branches.
• Supply the recovering plant with slow-release fertilizer.

Possible means for limiting the extent of the sun’s effect on any burned area

Visit a nearby nursery and purchase the material required for wrapping a tree’s trunk. Arborist in Palo Alto will paint on the trunk a solution that is 50% non-enamel, water-based, white latex paint and 50% water. White paint works best; do not use a dark-colored paint. It was used in the past, and did not aid achievement of good results.

How soon should the gardener see the results of his/her efforts?

If the fire took place in the summer or early fall, and the gardener had completed the restoration tasks in the late fall or early winter, then the results should show up in the spring. The formation of buds would indicate that an observed tree had recovered.

Burn damage is not a phenomenon that is new to gardeners. Those that live in regions with colder temperatures have witnessed the effects of freezing. That is another natural event that can cause a tree to get burned.

For many decades, gardeners have witnessed the comeback of a tree that had been burned by freezing temperatures. The gardeners’ methods for dealing with the effects of freezing have provided guidance to those homeowners that must now deal with the effects of flames and smoke.

Fortunately, those same methods have allowed the gardening community to witness the comeback of trees in the past. Hence, arborists anticipate a similar response to utilization of the same methods on any tree that was severely burned by flames, or deprived of oxygen by smoke.