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

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Late winter & spring pruning cuts can be very leaky.

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

Betula jacquemontii Birch tree leaking may stain their white bark.

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

In late winter and early spring, before and as trees begin to leaf out, their vascular systems become very active. Water and nutrients get active, traveling up from the roots quite readily.

And yes, trees can leak when we prune them in other seasons too.

Tree Leaking? Think about tapping sugar maples to make maple syrup.

This is done in winter and early spring when “the sap is rising”.

When we prune and a tree begins to drip, it’s basically the same thing that happens — though perhaps without the same tasty flavor that a sugar maple exudes.

Too, not all garden trees show seeping moisture from our pruning cuts. And, some will seep extra sticky stuff. In fact, beware of getting stuck to the goo oozing from a newly trimmed pine tree.

But, really, you rarely need to worry about the plant “bleeding” from cuts. It is already working to seal up those points of injury. And, if the cut is clean and the plant is healthy, it should be just fine without you intervening. In fact, if you do try to clog up the cut, you may do more harm than good to both the tree and the greater ecosystem that co-exists with it.

A few of considerations not to skip when your tree leaks when you prune…

There are a few things you do want to consider when pruning trees with rising sap.

  1. Some trees, like Birch may end up showing oozy stains from the rising sap trickling down their otherwise lovely bark. That’s why many choose not to prune birch and other showy bark trees when their sap is rising.
  2. Be sure that what you see oozing is actually just “rising sap”.
    If your tree has cracks in its bark or strange fissures emitting gunky, gelatinous oozes, that may actually be an infecting body spreading about. If in doubt, be sure to have an arborist or plant pathologist check it out!
  3. That leaky stuff is loaded with nutrients and sugars. So those leaks may attract hungry wildlife including pest insects and sap-sucking birds. That might not be a problem, but these critters may add to the damage as well. So keep an eye on any long-lingering leaks and the creatures that feed on them.

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Or read about how you can make pruning easier on you and your trees by nipping buds in spring.

57 comments on “I Pruned My Tree in Spring & Now It’s Leaking

  1. cecilia wisthoff on

    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.

  2. Adrian on

    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.

  3. Garden Mentors on

    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!

  4. Garden Mentors on

    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!

  5. Renee Khoury on

    Hi-
    Yesterday, we had to remove several layers from the bottom of 4 Pine trees that line our driveway. They had gotten so big and were scratching and ruining our cars with sap. I know this is the wrong time of year to do this and am wondering if I should seal the cuts (they are oozing sap) or do any other type of preventative measures so they don’t get diseased. Thank you!

  6. Lisa Benjamin on

    Hello,

    I have a very large tree imbed about 3 months ago. Now the tree is dripping sap everywhere. All over my car parked below and the back patio. Will this stop at some point? Maybe when it gets colder? Will it come back again after the weather gets warmer the following Spring and Summer? Thank you!

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Lisa, Without seeing the tree and its circumstances, it’s not possible to really know what’s happening with your tree. You might want to bring in a local consultant/certified arborist to evaluate what’s going on and what to expect. Three months is a long time, especially deep into summer, for a tree to still be pushing out a lot of water at pruning cuts. There might very well be something else going on. Good luck.

  8. Frances Zeock on

    My river birch is dropping water like crazy. My problem is, the plants below and the tree branch that is being dropped on are now stained black from this and my new cement walkway is turning black. Why is this happening as I have not read anything about this liquid turning anything black. And what can I do to clean it off my walkway?

    Thank you for your help

  9. Garden Mentors on

    Frances, When the birch leaks water, it is also leaking sugar. That may be attracting insects like aphids. Together, the sticky sugar water and the insect excrement are likely causing the black stuff. If you can time travel, go back in time and don’t plant this kind of tree over a walkway. Okay, yeah, time travel probably isn’t going to happen, so what to do? Try pressure washing your walkway and scrubbing. If that doesn’t work, maybe add a stain coat to your concrete to darken it to match the tree drip stains. Good luck.

  10. Sheila F. Gonzalez on

    Hi, we trimmed our neighbors birch tree, including a huge Branch overhanging our property. It began seeping the watery sap as well as oozing some slimy substance early on. The slimy substance has stopped but the watery sap continues to seep for nearly two weeks. But it’s also midwinter spring and has rained a couple of times . Unfortunately we tried to seal it because we didn’t know what was going on, but we stopped that treatment. Can you tell me how long is too long for the watery sap to continue to leak from this birch tree? Many thanks.

  11. Odilia on

    This article was really and educational to me,thank you for that. After first frost we cut of a larg bratch mid-way from our maple tree. Now that that the nice weather is coming around I noticed that same branch is dripping and started to worry the tree was harmed. The today I noted a bird drinking on the drops. Ready this artical has given me peace of mind.
    Thanks again.

  12. Garden Mentors on

    Odilia,
    Thanks for writing in to share your experience. That bird sipping maple water is no surprise. The water is rich in nutrients and very sweet. Have you tasted it?

  13. Brad Roope on

    My River Birch is 35 years old and 50 feet tall.
    It Has been cabled in three levels to provide some
    Protection from the back leg from taking out my house. The tree was trimmed and cabled in February this year. The water or sap is staining the driveway with a black background with black spots. What can I do to correct the problem ?

  14. Garden Mentors on

    Brad, Thanks for writing in. Since the work was done in February and it’s still early Spring, it may take a while before the tree stops dripping water. Our suggestion is to just let nature take its course. And, once the dripping ends, clean the driveway if the stains persist. Good luck.

  15. Karen Wathen on

    Hi, I was reading your comments about the dripping water coming out the ends of branches that have been cut. Recently it’s gentleman who was doing yardwork for us decided to cut back one side of a willow tree because he was afraid we would poke her eyes out with it. LOL it was fine but I am wondering if your advice is the same for a willow tree as it is for a birch. Just to let it seep until it’s done. I know that willow trees are prone to disease and I was wondering if there is anything else that I should be doing. We did not ask him to cut those branches and now I’m concerned that I might lose the tree.

  16. Garden Mentors on

    Karen,
    Sorry to hear you hired someone who did this. Seeping can happen with any tree. Especially when they’re cut in spring, which it seems your willow was. Same suggestions apply to this as to other trees. Good luck.

  17. Joy on

    Our birch tree was recently trimmed and is leaking. The problem is that there is an area on the ground where water is leaking from the roots and making a sort of sink hole. Will this eventually stop?

  18. Garden Mentors on

    Joy,
    Thanks for writing in. Leaking from the roots due to pruning doesn’t sound quite right. You may want to bring in a certified arborist to evaluated what’s going on. Good luck.

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