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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!


  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!

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