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I Pruned My Tree in Spring & Now It’s Leaking

April 18, 2011

When we prune trees as they are are exiting dormancy, sometimes we see the trees leaking fluid from the cuts. And, that’s okay.

In the Background: Betula jacquemontii Birches with Unparalled Peely White Bark

In the Background: Betula jacquemontii (Birch) with Unparalleled Peely White Bark

In spring, when trees begin to leaf out, their vascular systems become very active. Water and nutrients begin to travel up from the roots quite readily. Think about tapping Sugar Maples to get delicious Maple syrup. This is done in early spring when “the sap is rising”. That’s the same thing that happens, though perhaps without the same tasty flavor, when our garden trees show seeping moisture from our pruning cuts. Don’t worry about the plant “bleeding” from cuts. It is already working to wall off the points of injury and should be just fine.

Now, two things you do want to consider when pruning trees with rising sap.

First, some trees, like Birch may end up showing oozy stains from the rising sap trickling down their otherwise lovely bark. Some choose not to prune birch and other showy bark trees this time of year.

Second, be sure that what you see oozing is actually just “rising sap”. If your tree has cracks in bark or strange fissures emitting gunky, gelatinous oozes, that may actually be a fungal infection spreading its spores. If in doubt, be sure to have an arborist check it out!

24 Comments

  1. Valerie Dillard says:

    My tree is leaking so much and the temps dropped so cold it started to freeze and it’s like a giant ice formation on the side of the tree. There is a LOT of sap leaking from the cut! Is my tree going to die?

  2. Valerie – that’s an interesting conundrum I (Robin) haven’t faced. My guess, and this is just a guess, is that so long as the frozen material doesn’t pull off the bark layer and simply melts later, the tree should be okay. This is probably going to be a “wait and see” situation. Please let us know how the tree does over time. My fingers are crossed for you and your tree!

  3. Rachael Matte says:

    We trimmed delete the branches on our Birch and it has been pouring out water for 3 days from the cut what can you do to stop the leakage and does it harm the tree

  4. Rachel, as the article states, this happens and isn’t likely going to harm your tree. Trying to stop the flow or sealing the cut may do more harm than good. You could try to capture the water. We’ve tapped birch trees & the sweet, woodsy water is delicious (so long as you know you don’t have allergies to it & keep what you capture clean for drinking or converting into syrup). Good luck!

  5. Pat Wilcox says:

    My old Fruitless Mulberry was pruned during the winter but has not stopped leaking from some high branch wounds. The problem is they are hanging over the driveway, therefore, any vehicle that parks there gets clear brown, nickel sized drops on it. There also a couple spots branches that are dripping a thick blackish 1/4 in size drip. Should we or could we seal these branches off with paint or something?

  6. Pat,

    We don’t know of any goodness that comes from using branch sealant. You might want to bring in a local arborist to your area for help evaluating your trees.

    Good luck!

  7. Janice PIlcher says:

    The guy who cut my grass also cut my maple. Now the bottom cut of the tree is oozing this slime. It doesn’t smell. What can I do? Thanks!

  8. Janice,

    Thanks for your question. Definitely adding protection so that tree trunks aren’t cut or nicked during mowing is critical. If the trunk is cut a lot, the tree isn’t likely to survive. It’s living part, where it transports nutrients and water, is located just below the surface of the bark. If that transport system is interrupted a lot, you may see tree failure.

    What is oozing from your tree may be nutrient-rich water, coming up from the roots in spring to feed the plant as it leafs out. Think about when maples are tapped for water that’s converted into maple syrup!

    Site unseen, it’s tough to make specific recommendations. But, one thing to do is pull the grass away from the base of the tree so that your mowers stop hitting it with a mower or a weed whacker. As for the tree that’s oozing, probably letting it ooze is fine. If you’re still concerned, bring in a local garden consultant or arborist to address your specific issue.

    Good luck!

  9. Amy Chaffins says:

    We had to cut our birch tree down due to an addition on our house but we kept the stump in the ground to make a gnome home. Will the oozing EVER stop now that it’s cut down or will this continue to happen year after year? Is there something I can paint on it to let the tree know that it’s dead?

  10. Amy, thanks for writing in. The plant is still alive underground. The oozing is it pushing root-stored material upward as though there were parts of the tree above ground to receive them. It should stop over time. Of course, there’s a chance the tree will sprout from the roots. It isn’t dead until it’s dead under ground as well as above ground.

  11. Ida Franklin says:

    We removed a large branch from an oak tree by our driveway today. The trunk is about 10 inches in diameter. An alarming amount of water ran out of a hole where the branch was taken off. It smelled foul. That seems like a bad thing. Any ideas?

  12. Ida, You might try contacting an arborist local to your area to consult on your tree. Foul smells don’t sound like a good thing.

  13. T says:

    Great info thanks

  14. Chris Winder says:

    Thanks for this article. I was so concerned after seeing the water gushing from the cuts. About a week later, I see a small Finch bird jumping from branch to branch drinking the water from the tree. This article made me feel much better about the tree and very happy to see the birds getting something out of it as well.

  15. Glad to help Chris. That water the bird was sipping was also rich in sugars and nutrients. An extra boost for the birdies!

  16. Shawn says:

    Great information! I was concerned until I ran across your article! Extremely relieved….. Poor tree has been leaking for a week, but it’s also been raining 5 of these 7 days.

  17. Mark L says:

    We have a magnificent birch tree in our front garden. Unfortunately I had to cut off a branch as it was it overhanging the drive – delivery vans were refusing to access our road and neighbours beyond our house for fear of scratching roof. Two weeks have now passed since I cut it and it has been constantly dripping sap (3 or 4 drips per second). There is no sign of it stopping. Is this harming the tree? Thank you.

  18. This is the time of year that the sap is rising. Bottle it. Birch water is delicious!

  19. Simon says:

    Our neighbour has a lovely tall silver birch tree near our fence boundary. This morning there was a circle of what looked like rain drops on our patio about 2m diameter. No other rain drops anywhere. Directly overhead were the birch branches. It has not been pruned in over a year. The liquid was like water not sticky like sap. Is this coming out of the birch tree?

  20. Simon, It could be that water condensed on the tree and dripped below. Hard to know!

  21. cecilia wisthoff says:

    oh dear…my husband trimmed some branches off our birch and I noticed an abundant amount of water seeping out …so I looked online about tapping and benefits…so we tapped into tree and have received this wonderful benefical water…I am also making ice cubes to use for tea to keep longer useage….but now I have a hole and pruned bramches water everywhere….I read to plug hole and you advise to not do anything to branch cuts…is this correct? or Time will tell. Thanks for your site.

  22. Adrian says:

    I cut back my potted plum tree much earlier in the year and at this moment In time all my other potted apple trees are budding very well but the plum has no signs of budding and I’m just getting clear or brownish liquid from all the point I’ve trimmed. I concerned that I’ve now got slime flux but your opinion would be gratefully received.

  23. Adrian, Site unseen it’s tough to share anything that might be more than wild guesses. Best bet: get a sample to your local garden center. Good luck!

  24. Cecilia, cool that you tapped for some birch water. It’s delicious. Since we’re talking site unseen, it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on with your tree. Sounds like normal seepage, so it’s unlikely we’d make a recommendation to do any sort of sealing or plugging. Good luck!

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