Rabbits ate bark off my apple tree :-(

Asked February 12, 2020, 6:25 PM EST

I have a 15-year old apple tree, and the rabbits attacked it for the first time a couple of days ago. They've eaten a large area of the trunk's bark - from the ground up 18", and probably 75% around the trunk. Is there anything I can do? I've wrapped it with chicken wire, but I know at this point it might be too late... I'm really bummed, because it produces the best tasting apples. :-( Thanks!

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thanks for the question. I am sorry to hear about your bunny problem. I share your pain as they have taken a toll on some of my shrubs this winter as well.

If 75% of the bark about the main trunk has been nibbled away, the tree will not survive into 2021. That is the reality and there is little that you can now do about this. However, be prepared for two things during this coming season:

1). You may see some leaves and possibly even some blossoms on your tree. Do not rejoice too much about this. This growth is reflecting stored energy in the buds from 2019. It will not be sustainable. Some early leaf loss should be expected.

2). You may even see some new growth shoots coming up from the base of the tree. Most apple trees are grafted and if you observe these shoots, it is coming up from the root stock and not from the tree from which you have previously harvested apples. These new shoots will not produce a desirable tree.

So here’s my suggestion. Bite the bullet and replace your tree this spring. In the long run, it will save you the time of doing this now than at a later point. I know very well how hard it is to dig up a tree that has been a great producer. But this is something that you may need to face. Then over the 2020-2021 winter, protect your new tree. See:

https://kglandscape.com/winterizing-minnesota-trees/

https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/protecting-trees-and-shrubs-winter

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