It’s been three months since Julia Malakie reported that vandals stripped the bark completely around a maple tree at Wellington Park. This is the arboreal equivalent of a throat blockage, preventing nourishment from being delivered to the body.

Remarkably, like “Mike the Headless Chicken”, the tree lives on, although with some unusual reddish foliage.

Apparently, the tree wasn’t entirely girdled, so the thin, exposed layer of sugar-transporting phloem might have remained partially intact. Director of Urban Forestry Marc Welch quickly applied a tree band aid to protect the wound, and neighbors have kept the tree well watered. A close up look at the trunk now shows regenerating vasculature and new bark forming:
Curiously, the lower crown foliage turned prematurely red soon after the vandalism, and has remained so.

To a tree physiologist, this is an opportunity to observe a tree’s capacity to regenerate critical tissues and heal from what’s usually thought to be fatal injury. To tree lovers like Julia, the local park users and city personnel who have nursed it, the tree’s recovery must be a point of pride and a living rebuke to the violence done to it.

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