Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - October 31, 2011

From: Quincy, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Trees
Title: Spraying paint on White Pine tree trunks
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Is there a paint that is safe to spray on a tree trunk without damaging/killing the tree? We have White Pines that have ~16" spacing without limbs & would like to 'camouflage' the bare space. If paint/dye could be used, where would we purchase a can?

ANSWER:

It is hard to visualize the situation you are describing and to know if you are trying to camouflage to match the bark or the foliage, but I will try to answer your question. 

A spacing of 16 inches between branches is not unreasonable on a Pinus strobus (Eastern white pine) tree and when it is mature, the spacing will actually be much larger than that so that light and air can reach the inner part of the tree.

It would be helpful to know how big the trees are and what condition led to there being "bare spaces".  Are there wounds where branches have died or been removed or are these bare spaces places where the bark has been removed to reveal the lighter heartwood?  Trees have their own healing mechanisms and will slowly regenerate bark from the outside edges of the wound until the wound has healed over completely.  In the past, the generally accepted practise was to paint these wounds with black, tarry wound paint, but research has indicated that actually inhibits the natural healing process.  The bare, light patches will eventually fade to grey but if you can't wait, you can use a wood stain that does not contain any urethane or latex sealer.  You don't want to inhibit the exchange of moisture and gasses, so paint (oil or latex) is not a good idea. 

I hope this answers your question ... if not, please feel free to post another question with a more detailed description of the situation.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern white pine
Pinus strobus

More General Botany Questions

Native vs Non-native Insect Host Plants
March 14, 2013 - My understanding of a host plant is that it is a plant that an insect will lay its eggs on. Is this correct? If this is so then can a cultivar be a host plant for the same insect? I have read Mr. Doug...
view the full question and answer

Clover in grass in Marysville WA
March 05, 2009 - I noticed clover growing in my grass and know that this is a sign of poor nitrogen in my soil. I would like to know of some native plants / shrubs that I could put near my house in Washington that ...
view the full question and answer

Changing the pH of the soil
January 16, 2012 - Hi, We have a job that has mostly Texas native plants on it. The architect is wanting to drop the pH levels of the soils to acidic levels that we don't feel is good for the plants and the area. ...
view the full question and answer

What are the differences between Arbutus xalapensis, A. unedo and A. marina
August 29, 2013 - One nursery lists madrone trees as arbutus uneda compacta and arbutus marina. The other lists it as arbutus xalapensis, which is the only name I can find in the data base. There is a very large pric...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on air purification
September 14, 2005 - What plant purifies the air?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.