Sugar Maple Trees Damaged by Tree Marking Paint

damage on sugar maple from marking paint

A field note is a report from "the field," based on observation and experience. This is the first, in what I hope will be a periodic offering of New England forestry field notes. If you have a field note you would like to share, contact, Please note, I can't guarantee I will publish your note.

Tree Farmer, Fred Fauver, from Pownal, Maine, asked forester Tom Hahn about damage to his sugar maple trees. Tom checked in with Kyle Lombard, Bill Ostrofksy and me (Karen Bennett). The damage seemed to be associated with paint Mr. Fauver used to mark his crop trees. Fred gave me permission to share his story, so here it is:

In 2001, I purchased a small woodlot in southern Maine, including several acres with a nice stocking of young sugar maple (sapling and pole). One of my first projects was to select and begin to release sugar maple crop trees. In 2007, I decided to mark my crop trees to help remind me of the decisions I had made. Using blue boundary paint and brush application, I painted a 4-inch band around each crop tree about 6 feet above ground.

In the fall of 2013, while removing epicormic sprouts from the trees, I noticed some loose bark under one of the paint rings. Removal of the loose bark revealed a cavity and dead wood. Examination revealed damage on about 75% of the marked trees. The extent of the damage ranged from slight but noticeable swelling of the bole to wounds that left the tree nearly fully girdled.

Some digging by Tom Hahn, forester with FORECO in Rumney, New Hampshire, and Bill Ostrofsky of the Maine Forest Service uncovered a 1979 paper in the Journal of Forestry by Stone and Frederick titled Cambial Necrosis of Sugar Maple Associated with Tree Marking Paint. While this article describes the damage caused to sugar maples (and several other species) by aerosol tree marking paint, the damage to the sample trees described and documented with photographs in the article match exactly the damage done to my sugar maples by the brush-applied boundary paint.

While Stone and Frederick recommended it “seems best to avoid using aerosol tree and log marking paint” to mark young crop trees, research trees, and other trees that one intends to leave standing for many years, my recent experience would indicate that the recommendation should be changed from “seems best” to “is vital, that brush-on formulations must be added to that warning."

Thank you to Mr. Fauver for sharing his experiences and for the contributions of Kyle Lombard, N.H. Division of Forests and Land, Bill Ofstrofsky, Maine Forest Service and Tom Hahn, FORECO.

The complete citation for the research quoted above is:

Stone, Douglas M. and Douglas J. Frederick. Cambial Necrosis of Sugar Maple Associated with Tree Marking Paint. Journal of Forestry. September 1979. Volume 77, number 9, pages 578-580.

The following pictures show sugar maple damaged by tree marking paint-- supplied by Tree Farmer, Fauver


Karen Bennett
Extension Professor, Emeritus
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall Rm 212, Durham, NH 03824