Deer Damage on Yoshino Cherry Update

Deer Damage on Yoshino Cherry Update

Two falls ago (Fall of 2008) a lone buck came wandering through our yard. It was a magnificent sight to behold. Nature at its best…and its worst, at least for this gardener. You see this wandering deer was going through its normal fall ritual of rubbing its antlers for the winter. Their favorite target – young trees. That year I had planted several trees (maple and dogwood) that became natural scratching posts along with a Yoshino Cherry tree I planted the previous year.

When deer rub on trees it is often a death sentence for the tree. The antlers easily scratch through the bark and remove the cambium layer. If enough of the cambium layer is removed the tree cannot transport water up through the trunk to the areas above. No water means a dead tree. The lucky thing is that the deer didn’t remove all the bark around all the trees. The only fatality was the ‘Appalachian Spring’ Dogwood that was just too small to withstand the beating. (Losing that tree still bothers me today since I haven’t been able to find it again locally!)

The amazing thing about trees is that they grow new bark over the old. The new bark and new cambium layer form and gradually the wounds close from the outside of the wound. It’s a slow process and would take several years on older trees but small young and healthy trees, like I have, could possibly close the gap in just a few years. The old layers of bark form the tree rings or growth rings that we typically see when we try to measure the age of a tree. Each ring corresponds to another year of growth or really another growing season of the cambium layer.

Here is how my Yoshino Cherry Tree looks now. The wound is closing significantly and probably is only a sixth the size of the trunk. It’s good progress but until the wound is closed it could remain susceptible to insects or disease. I’ll do my best to keep the tree healthy and happy!

What Should You Do If Deer Damage Your Tree?

  • First Don’t Panic – It may not be the end of the tree.
  • See how much of the tree is damaged. If a small amount 25% or less of the trunk is scraped it should be OK. If more than that is damaged it could still survive but may need some TLC.
  • Cleanup the wound.With a sharp clean knife cut away the rough edges of the wound. Rough edges won’t transport water efficiently. They could also be a good spot for insects or disease to hide.
  • Then let time have its way. Monitor the tree and treat it kindly – keep the deer away – and it could come back. The say that time heals all wounds is true in this case and just might be the best way to heal a deer damaged tree!

If you live in an area that is prone to deer consider covering the trunks of young trees with some sort of mesh that will prevent them from bothering the trees. Otherwise you might have the same experience!


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I remember when that happened Dave, you were quite upset, as well you should be. So sorry about that Dogwood, a very special one that was bred to be resistant to the anthracnose. But hooray for the cherry. It is really growing and should give you a load of blooms at the end of the month, or so. 🙂

  2. Deer damage can be quite devastating. I'm glad your cherry seems to be doing well! Thanks also for your information, Dave. 🙂

  3. I'm glad your cherry will make it. I had antler rub on a new linden in 2008 and the callus pulled away from the wound instead of enclosing it, and the inner bark is now exposed about 80% of the way around the whole trunk. The tree is alive, but struggling, and will succumb. Like you, I am so mad! Now I encase trunks of my young trees in ugly plastic wrap all fall and winter.

  4. It's healed up nicely. So glad!

  5. I never considered the damage caused by deer rubbing their antlers on tree trunks. Sorry about the Dogwood loss, hopefully the cherry will continue to heal and bring many blossoms..

  6. Dave,

    Glad your cherries are making it. Not that bad of battle scar either.

    I found a deer pulled up camellia bush the other day, one of those 3 for $10 ones I got on special at Home Depot. nO DAMAGE AND i REPLANTED IT,

  7. Hi Dave,

    At our nursery and my home, I use a flexible PVC pipe to protect my trees that the deer like to rub. I cut it to size and the slice it down the middle. I pop it on in September and take it off in the early spring, store it away and use it again the next year.

    For evergreens I use DeerPro Winter Animal Repellent to stop deer browse damage.


  8. Dear Dave .. come here so I can pinch you ! haha
    I had no idea deer could do so much damage ! .. although we did have a rabbit(s) that ate our little apple tree to death .. but wow on the deer thing !
    Glad it is coming back for you : )

  9. The dear deer, they can really damage a garden…and there cute friends the bunnies, squirrels, gophers and chipmunks. All of a sudden, I feel like it's us against them!! gail

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