Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

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The Specimen
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Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by The Specimen »

I have never used wound sealant until recently and as I am progressing to try new techniques and methodoglies (grafts) I am thinking of buying cut paste and came across the information below.

To make it easier, I thought I would just paste the info here howver you can visit the source website (http://ofbonsai.org/the-last-page/edito ... -of-bonsai )

What are your thoughts on "Wound Sealant" ?



"Another popular myth is the effectiveness of wound sealant on bonsai and exactly which type is best. Many practitioners swear by cut paste and claim that nothing else works as well. In a thread at bonsaitalk.com, Joanie Berkwitz stated, “…Sometimes it is a false economy to buy other products and expect them to work the same as cut paste. Cut paste has been developed for a very specific function… it allows callous to form underneath, it doesn’t wash off, it contains anti fungal and anti bacterial agents that protect the open wound, it is not too stiff and not too soft. Sure, you can use plumbers putty or glue or other things… but you won’t get all of the attributes of cut paste….”


Other bonsaists swear by other products such as Elmer’s glue, Vaseline, Play Dough, wax, toothpaste, dirt, and even Preparation H. The common denominator is the belief that trees need outside help in order to accelerate and assure healthy healing. Of course, this does not take into consideration that trees never actually heal. Damage never heals; it justisolates the damage through the formation of suberized, lignified wood that physically and chemically repels invasion. Callus develops at the edge of the wound and gradually expands toward the center. This wound wood remains for the life of the tree.When an animal is injured the response it the creation of new, healthy cells, when a plant is injured the response is to cover the injured area with callus tissue. Trees have been doing this since they existed without humankind’s help and certainly without foreign wound sealant of any type.

Let us take a look at what some respected experts in horticulture have to say about wound dressings.

The Wikipedia tells us “Dr, Alex Shig is widely considered the father of modern arboriculture. He developed many of the principles that have become central to arboriculture, and his work served as a foundation for much of the research following it.” And that “Dr. Shigo’s discoveries went against many arboricultural conventions that existed prior to his research. Many techniques that were staples of arboriculture for hundreds or even thousands of years were shown to be unnecessary or harmful. It took many years, but Shigo’s conclusions have been confirmed by other researchers, and a wealth of discoveries are now built upon his initial work. Current ANSI standards for tree pruning reflect his recommendations.”

Dr. Shigo debunked the myth of wound dressing decades ago, but the myth still persists and is still spread around, especially by retailers.

Diane Relf, Extension Specialist, Consumer Horticulture, Virginia Tech states that “An article by D.W. Robinson in Chronica Horticulturae points out that standard text books have traditionally recommended that when a tree is pruned, branches should be cut flush to the trunk or to a larger branch. After pruning, the cut surface should be painted with some substance to prevent rot. When decay develops, the wound should be cleaned out and the cavity filled. Research in recent years has refuted these recommendations.”She goes on to say “Wound Paints and Sealants – While most horticultural books recommend the use of paints or sealants on tree wounds, Dr. Shigo’s research shows that such treatments have no long-term value. Provided pruning is done properly by cutting as closely as possible to the branch collar, there is no need to paint wounds regardless of their size.”

Thomas H. R. Hall, when reviewing Dr. Shigo’s book, “Tree Biology and Tree Care, A Photo Guide” sums up his thoughts nicely with the following words. “There will not be many arboriculturists or urban foresters in the temperate regions of the world who have not been influenced by the fundamental research carried out by Alex Shigo during his career in the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. His patient and methodical examination of decay patterns in the woody tissues of trees has revealed the mechanism of wound responses, indicating biochemical processes which isolate the invading organisms. No longer are trees treated like human beings to whom poultices, ointments and all sorts of medicines are applied to assist and encourage healing. Wound sealants are quite rightly relegated to nothing more than placebos whose only function is cosmetic. The concept of barrier zones isolating infection is epitomised in compartmentalization and walling off. Arboriculturists who have headed the findings of Shigo’s research, require no further evidence to demonstrate the validity of his teaching.”

Revisiting Linda Chalker-Scott, an Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center of Washington State University, we can find her thoughts on what wound sealants do and do not do.

Wound Dressings Do:

•Seal in moisture and decay
•Sometimes serve as a food source for pathogens
•Prevent wound wood from forming
•Inhibit Compartmentalization
•Eventually crack, exposing the tree to pathogens
Wound Dressings Do Not:

•Prevent entrance of decay organisms
•Stop Rot
She goes on to explain in her article, “The Myth of Wound Dressings” that all plants, like all living organisms, have natural resistance mechanisms to fight insect attacks, disease, or damage. Covering wounds with sealants inhibits oxidative processes, which in turn will reduce callus formation and subsequent compartmentalization.

Sue McDavid, UCCE / El Dorado County Master Gardener, states that “First, tree wounds don’t heal, they seal over. Painting them actually may harm a tree because some wood-rotting organisms may already be on the cut surface and if you paint over them, you’re just sealing these harmful organisms into a warm, moist environment where they can grow and multiply. Prune at the proper time for a plant or tree and leave the pruning wounds alone.”

Wound sealant, of any kind is not needed on a tree. Trees have evolved without dependency on artificial sealants of any type. They have a natural ability to deal with damage, be it by lightning, wind, snow, insects, disease, or the concave cutters of a bonsai artist. Dr, Alex Shig, who is widely considered the father of modern arboriculture, proved this decades ago and yet the myth hangs on.

The fact is that applying any sort of dressing to a wound on a tree can be detrimental at best and damaging at the worst. Trees need to be left to their own innate devices when damaged, there is no valid reason for rushing in like Florence Nightingale with a first aid kit full of cut paste, band-aids, and other medications, all that will be done is to prolong the process of recovery. It may well make us feel better to think we are helping the tree, but in fact, all we are doing is adding to the chances of further damage.

Most wound sealants do not, contrary to some beliefs, come with anti fungal and anti bacterial agents that protect the open wound. The truth is the best protection for an open wound is no protection at all. Even those sealants that may actually have anti fungal and anti bacterial agents are suspect because the very act of sealing the wound most likely negates any advantage such additives would have by creating an environment far more friendly to bacteria and fungus.

Based on every single professional horticulturist and arborist statements on the subject that I could find, as well as studies from major universities, there is no other logical conclusion other than that applying wound sealants is ineffective, a waste of time and resources, and could hinder the recovery process and be damaging to the tree. All claims to the validity of using wound sealants are false.

The truth is that wounds do not need dressings and wound sealants can very well cause more harm than good to the tree."
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Bougy Fan »

Have a look HERE and look at shibui's post. I saw this tree in the bark yesterday and can confirm the sealant has done a better job than no sealer. I just think whatever works for you is the answer :idea:
Regards Tony

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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Damian Bee »

Bougy Fan wrote:Have a look HERE and look at shibui's post. I saw this tree in the bark yesterday and can confirm the sealant has done a better job than no sealer. I just think whatever works for you is the answer :idea:
Bougy is right, whatever works.

:2c: some plant species can do well without it while others don't do so well without it.
:imo: if I did not apply sealant to cuts on my Azalea/Rhodo's I may as well toss the lot out as the area around the wound desiccates and the living tissue will die back several centimetres often resulting in the loss of prized sections of trunk or branch.

I don't use cut paste made in Japan, I use an Aussie one made in Melbourne :aussie: It works just great and I wouldn't use anything else on my trees :tounge:
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by bodhidharma »

It is all good info but dont believe everything you read either. ;) Find out yourself..Cut two branches off the same tree, seal one and not the other. You will soon find out. Then you will be armed with knowledge and not just information. I have tried and will be sticking to my cut paste.
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Scott Roxburgh »

I use it, I don't think it is a myth. Each to their own though.
Damian Bee wrote:I don't use cut paste made in Japan, I use an Aussie one made in Melbourne :aussie: It works just great and I wouldn't use anything else on my trees :tounge:
Where do you get this product?

I'd like to support Aussies :aussie:

I didn't even know it was available?
Last edited by Scott Roxburgh on October 11th, 2012, 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by siddhar »

It is all good info but dont believe everything you read either. Find out yourself..Cut two branches off the same tree, seal one and not the other. You will soon find out. Then you will be armed with knowledge and not just information.
This is very true. As I've been sorting through my trees, re-potting, pruning etc. I have seen a big difference in the cuts that weren't sealed and the ones that were. It also differs from species to species. e.g Trident maple will heal over just about anything! Whereas Cedars take much longer and would benefit from wound sealer :imo:
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Chad »

Very interesting article. Have never used it till now and only problem I have had is the die back on a Japanese maple. Using it now just to so if there is any difference.
But each to their own, if you believe it works then don't stop.
With horticulture there are many myths and old wives tales. Everyone's an expert, but it's the fun of finding out what works for you hat makes it so interesting.
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Dario »

I have read this and other similar articles before, and I do not disagree with the studies done that state that trees deal with unjuries and rot via walling off and compartmentilisation.
I do question wether a tree in the ground is different to a tree kept in a small bonsai pot.
Of course the physiology of the tree will not change, but the conditions do...reduced roots and room etc, etc...
Even if the conditions in potted culture do not account for any significant differences relating to the effectiveness of how a tree copes with injuries, I still advocate the use of cut paste.
I believe that protecting the cambium tissue with an application of cut paste (or some such substitute) has stopped die back of the area after trunk chopping or severing of entire branches.
I have had good results doing this and I will continue to do so as I believe it works.
The Specimen wrote:
Most wound sealants do not, contrary to some beliefs, come with anti fungal and anti bacterial agents that protect the open wound. The truth is the best protection for an open wound is no protection at all. Even those sealants that may actually have anti fungal and anti bacterial agents are suspect because the very act of sealing the wound most likely negates any advantage such additives would have by creating an environment far more friendly to bacteria and fungus.

Based on every single professional horticulturist and arborist statements on the subject that I could find, as well as studies from major universities, there is no other logical conclusion other than that applying wound sealants is ineffective, a waste of time and resources, and could hinder the recovery process and be damaging to the tree. All claims to the validity of using wound sealants are false. "
I think that the language I underlined in the above quote suggests that although the process of how a tree deals with injuries has been studied (compartmentilisation etc), similar studies actually using cut paste (or similar substitutes) have not been done.
I would like to make a destinction between bonsai trees, and trees in the ground/nature etc. In this instance I am interested in bonsai trees and I make this distinction as I am in no way questioning the validity of previous studies.
It might be interesting if studies were conducted on bonsai trees comparing the results of using cut paste as opposed to not using cut paste. Probably too many variables involved and not a realistic study anyway, but it might be interesting.
As others have said...each to their own and whatever works for you!
Cheers, Dario. :tu2:
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Bonsai4ever »

In Bonsai we are looking for perfection in trunk and branch appearance whilst an Arborist is simply attempting to remove an offending branch. One has only to observe nature to see that open wounds on trees often lead to decay in the area and rarely do we see the area heal over.

Cut paste works for me and I will continue with its use on my trees.
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by squizzy »

I wonder if it's always necessary. I mean we go to countless efforts to create deadwood when maybe we could control the process naturally. Just a thought. Might not work on all trees. You might find I take a much more unrefined approach to bonsai than most.

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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by irish »

Hi.

Armed with little knolage at this point in my Bonsai life, would not the species of tree be a deming factor :lost:

Also would your own practice of feeding a tree also come into it. As to rate and time taken to heal. :lost:

Now back to learning from others. :reading:

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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Damian Bee »

Scott Roxburgh wrote:I use it, I don't think it is a myth. Each to their own though.
Damian Bee wrote:I don't use cut paste made in Japan, I use an Aussie one made in Melbourne :aussie: It works just great and I wouldn't use anything else on my trees :tounge:
Where do you get this product?

I'd like to support Aussies :aussie:

I didn't even know it was available?

It is a grafting masticBZ made by Kendon chemical manufacturing.
It is like a cross between vasoline and wax. It runs a bit in summer but still does its job.
Anyway something was eating the expensive stuff :lost:
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by Rintar »

Please remember here that I am new.... And learning... Possibly over enthusiastic.... But the study done on trees in ground would be large full grown or at least mature trees. Well this is an assumption but even so if this was the case and they are talking about cutting branches and doing it close to main branch and or trunk the die back area on said tree could be bigger than your whole bonsai.... That won't affect a tree that size well established with great root system... Go with the flow find your rythem have fun .. and if u screw it up but the tree lives just gives u a chance to try a new direction and possibilitys that weren't their before...


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WARNING: I suffer from ideaphoria. This post may contain untested ideas, errors, and excessive enthusiasm.
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by The Specimen »

It's always great to read and broaden one's view and think I have come to my own conclusion so thanks for your input.

If it assists the process and helps to realize the objective better (in my case grafting) then I have nothing to lose from trying out various options (reasoning sounds credible also and just food for thought, trees in nature don't graft themselves so they have no need for such a sealant)

Yes there are many variables to consider and the same application can yield varying results such at location, climate, environment etc.. just got to do it :tu2:
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Re: Bonsai Myth ? Wound Sealant

Post by treeman »

There is no doubt whatsoever of the effectiveness of wound sealing at least for some species. It is NOT a myth and the researchers who say so are simply wrong. I remember pruning a flowering quince a few years back and EVERY cut was infected by some crazy fungus within a week and proceeding down the branch, After cutting and sealing...no further probs.
But the main benifit is that the callus cells formed are kept in a high state of moisture under the paste/wax and continue growing rather than form bark and slow down/stop.
Go ahead and use it especially for cherries, quince, maple, azalea etc. Not so much for resinous spp like pine, juniper and disregard the ''research'' that ''debunks'' it
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