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Outdoors: Unkind cuts

girdled-tree.jpg

If a soothsayer bids you, "Beware the Ides of March," perhaps you should heed the warning.

In the Roman calendar, the "ides" was the middle day.

Remember your Shakespeare? On the Ides of March, a band of co-conspirators fell upon Julius Caesar, but he felt most betrayed by his friend Brutus, who made the "unkindest cut of all."

For a young trees, the unkindest cut - often an assassination - usually is perpetrated by hungry wildlife in winter.

Understand that a surprisingly small proportion of a tree is made up of living cells. They are located just under the bark.

If a creature chomps or gnaws this living layer all the way around the circumference of a tree, we call it "girdling," and it can be fatal.

Rodents, rabbits, porcupines and deer all girdle trees.

Sometimes girdling is done by humans intentionally with an axe or unintentionally, with lawn mowers and string trimmers.

It doesn’t matter. If sap cannot run through the living layer, a tree will die.

While girdling is normal in a forest, it can be heartbreaking in an orchard or landscape.

Growers should protect small trees because, as the snow begins to melt around the Ides of March, damaged young trees may reveal the "unkindest cuts of all."