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Frustrated researcher

February 23, 2023

When I decided not long ago to try to get to the bottom of how this was possible…

… it turned out to be relatively easy to track down the answer on the internet. It is a process called capping and involves other trees sending help through their intertwined roots to “heal” the wound. 

Since reading the article and seeing its illustration, I’ve spotted a fully capped stump. 

Wonder about something, do some research, find the answer. Easy peasy.

Well, it was for that. The other thing that’s been intriguing me ever since Joe and I first spotted an example, is how cedar trees manage to repair themselves after they’ve been attacked by woodpeckers.

Here’s a pic of the process near the beginning.

Near completion.


How do they do this? It can’t have anything to do with capping. These aren’t tree stumps, they’re live trees.

Decided to investigate.

Joe and I have often commented that it would be good to have a friendly arborist along for one of our walks. One (pretty much the only) thing I discovered during my internet searching yesterday is that we actually need is a dendrologist. (Which, if not immediately obvious, is a scientist who specialises in the study of woody plants, as opposed to an arborist, who specialises in pruning/maintaining trees.)

All I could find by googling the subject was advice on how humans can repair woodpecker damage to cedar (trees or fencing!). Tried posting a query on the local nature Facebook page and got one reply confirming that the trees do indeed repair themselves (but no explanation as to the process) and a response from a guy who initially challenged my assumption that the pictures I’d posted were in fact woodpecker damage, then when I posted another blindingly obvious photo, suggested the answer could be found in this article about CODIT (Compartmentalization of Decay In Trees). Can’t say I fully understood the article, but it definitely does not seem to answer the question. 

I have no idea how to find a dendrologist, so I took a punt on Facebook. One friend (in the UK) has offered to ask her prof husband “if any of his ecologist/forestry buddies know anything”. Bit of a long shot, but you never know.

Occurs to me that the person I need to find is the author of the blog which provided the answer about capping. 

He does have one piece about pileated woodpeckers, which includes this great photo.

Could this possibly be the reason for so many huge holes?

But the article fails to mention cedar damage. The site offers no way of contacting him with a direct query. And there’s no response at the bottom of the woodpecker piece to a comment asking specifically about woodpecker damage. So maybe he’s not the bloke I need. A bit more searching suggested the author is probably a guy named Myles Green, but I’ve failed to track him past that.

The (re)search continues.

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