I have a flowering crab tree approximately 25 years old. Last winter we had rabbits eat off a significant portion of the bark off near the ground level of the tree. The tree did flower in the spring but over the course of the summer certainly appears to have been damaged from this event. Please see attached pictures. Here's my questions. 1. Do you think this tree will is finished or will it revive itself over the winter if no additional damage occurs? 2. I used a pruning spray on the tree-I've heard differing opinions on using this from good to bad, however I though I should try to protect the bare part of the trunk-what is your advice in using this type of spray and if I should not have used it, what is the alternative-just to leave it be?? 3. Should I try wrapping the trunk this year over the winter to prevent the rabbits from damaging it further? 4. What is the life expectancy of a Flowering Crab tree?
Hennepin County Minnesota
The average lifespan of a Crab apple is 30-40 years but it depends on how it is taken care of and the soil, sun, etc. available. Girdling destroys the tree as it disrupts the downward flow of food from the tree's foliage to the root system. As a general rule up to a third of the circumference of a tree can be girdled and the tree has a decent chance of growing out of it. More than that may allow the tree to live for a few years but it will eventually die. There are no applications that will mitigate the effects of rabbit damage or save severely damaged trees. Wound dressings, pruning paints, latex paints, wrappings and other alleged protective barriers do not help. The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage to your tree is to place chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth around the trunk. The fencing material must to be high enough that rabbits won't be able to climb or reach over the fence after a heavy snow. In most cases, a fence that stands 24 to 36 inches tall should be sufficient. To prevent rabbits from crawling underneath the fencing, bury the bottom 2 or 3 inches below the ground or pin the fencing to the soil with u-shaped anchor pins. After a heavy snow, check to make sure rabbits aren't able to reach or climb over the fencing. If necessary, remove some of the snow to keep rabbits from reaching the trees.