Tree Tips: Tree Girdling

A common problem encountered on a regular basis is tree girdling. This occurs when a tree has had something tied around the trunk or branch, examples include dog leashes, ropes for swings, guide ropes, and clothes lines.

Tree girdling is a problem that is caused by neglect over a long period of time, as the tree grows; the rope or wire does not, eventually the tree grows around the girdle. This is not only dangerous to the tree, but also to those living around the tree.

A tree receives nutrients from the roots via the phloem; the innermost layer of the bark. When a tree is girdled the phloem has difficulty transporting the nutrients from the roots to the leaves. As a result, girdling can kill the tree, or stunt its growth.

Girdling can also slowly weaken and damage a tree over a period of years or decades. As the material cuts into the tree the structure of the tree is compromised, this can lead to rot, disease, and a loss of structural integrity. Often a tree will break off at the point of girdling in a heavy wind storm. The good news is girdling is easy to avoid, all one has to do is move or remove the wire or rope at least once a year.

If you have a question, you can email me at, and I will respond either by email or in a future article. If you would like me to come and assess one of your trees, you can call me at 519-272-5742.


Joel Hackett is a Certified Arborist Residing in the St Mary’s Area. Spending most of the year running Joel’s Tree Service, he also teaches Arboriculture during the winter at Lambton College. Joel Hackett does not assume any Liability for any information in this article.

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