One of the strangest things you may see as you travel around is the bottoms of trees painted white.
There are various reasons, and much of the reason bark is white does depend on the area you are in. You may be surprised to find it is not a new thing, and it is something that has been around for many years.
Here you can learn the reasons why are tree trunks painted white, and is painting tree trunks something you should do in your garden? for any more tips, leave a comment and your email address.
Why Do You Whitewash Trees?
One of the main reasons for whitewashing the bottoms of your trees is for protection. You may notice chunks of the bark buckle and look as if they are about to fall.
In gardening terms, this is known as ‘Winter Sun Scald’ or ‘Southwest Injury’ and occurs when the tree is in its infancy.
Southwest Injury is an issue in climates where there is intense sun exposure, and the temperatures from in the day to the night fluctuate wildly.
Regions such as New Mexico fall into this. Once you whitewash your trees in their younger years, it offers that extra bit to protect them in the winter months. You can also find other reasons why painting tree trunks white helps. (Read How to Decorate a Tree Stump)
We have just seen this is similar to adding sunscreen, yet on your young trees. The whitewash can stop the trunk, getting a dry and cracked surface.
Once you have a whitewash coating around the base of your young tree, it can help the trees remain cool in the spring. What happens is that as the whitewash reflects the heat, your trees can spend more time on transpiration and developing their fruits.
When trees are cooler, they have less stress, and their stomata stay open longer for the exchange of gasses. As they take in more carbon dioxide, they create more energy.
Pests and Pathogens
Because the bark of the tree cracks, this makes the ideal place for insects as pathogens to creep inside. Fungi and bacteria can be rife and feed on the innards of the tree as it dies back, and it suffers from stunted growth.
Whitewash mixtures are generally a 3:1 ratio. Here you mix three parts of water and 1 part of interior latex paint.
Another formula is to use hydrated lime with salt and water, as is kaolin. Kaolin can be painted onto fruit for added protection, and come harvest it just needs washing for removal.
Why Are Trees in Mexico Painted White?
The reasons for white paint on trees in Mexico are a little different. The white tree trunk is specifically to protect and fend off one type of ant.
The leafcutter ant hunts out and cuts at fresh vegetation, and can comprise leaves, flowers and grasses. All through the farms, these can cause serious harm, to the extent of taking all the foliage from a citrus tree in the space of a day.
A painted tree trunk in Mexico will be from calcium hydroxide, which is very alkaline and the ants will avoid crawling across it as it burns them.
Like other hot areas, you find painted trees as protection against the sun. You already see that painted trees don’t suffer from the cracks in the bark.
Why Do They Paint Trees White in Greece?
Greece is also another country where you can see painted trees. Where it used to be a whitewash to paint the trunks of trees, the Greeks now use more ecological ways to fight insects.
However, during Easter time, everything is whitewashed, and a mix of latex paint and water can be used on trunks, tree painting can’t escape tradition, so they all get a coating of water-based paint.
Why Do They Paint the Trunks of Palm Trees White?
You tend to find that the majority of palms grow in hardiness zones 9 & 10 in the United States.
Like in other areas, these are for several reasons why paint trees white, and the first is protection against insects.
You can find on these; they may add oil or lime to the latex paint that traps the insects and stops them from reaching the upper parts of the trees. Fruit trees fall foul of this, and the coconuts in palm trees can fall to the same pest infections. (Read Can You Grow Cherry Trees From Cherry Pits)
Painting tree trunks white on a young tree helps the trees protect against the sun. UV rays burn the bark of young trees and can cause them to die. Sunburn on trees leads to damage in the cambium layers, which causes dehydration.
It takes around three years before trees can protect themselves against this heat, though the painting can continue far beyond this to offer this added protection.
It may sound strange, but the bark of a trunk may be painted white to make palm trees visible when they are at the side of the road. Motorists have been known to crash into a tree trunk that isn’t painted.
Each region has its reasons for painting the bark of their trees. However, the majority do it as a means of protection from either the sun, the weather or insects.
If you have any trees in your garden that are new, and you may feel they can benefit from a lick of weak paint now and again. You may find it is the easy way to deliver that extra bit of protection they require particularly against insects and fungi. If you do this and have any success, drop a comment to our email address.