Apple tree hollow branches


I recently trimmed off some dead branches from an old Apple tree on our property and discovered the centre of all the dead branches rotted out… any way to know if this tree can be saved? Are the rotten centres indicative of a disease?

I am open to all insight!

Thank you


It’s eventually gonna die… But, that might be 100 years from now.
Google up photos of the last surviving ‘Johnny Appleseed’ tree, somewhere in Ohio… big hollow trunk.

There’s still a lot of ‘structural’ wood in that hollow branch/trunk. However, it looks like it’s been neglected for quite some time… from the look of it, it could even have been a rootstock sucker that was not removed in a timely manner


Yes, I think that’s what that section of the tree is, good to know that there is no imminent danger.

It does seem to have happened in other branches too (attached) image

I have seen people say to fill the hole with cement cover with trimming paint etc… any recommendations?

Thank you!


Just say no to cement.
have seen recent university extension recommendations to seal holes with closed cell expanding foam and painting the exposed, cured foam to retard UV degradation.

1 Like

I’d like to see Lucky’s extension recs but am very skeptical. Sealing wounds is usually counter productive with trees because fungus thrives in moist conditions and trees don’t heal by eliminating fungus, they survive by walling fungus off. However, the science is always evolving so I’m open to new research, if that’s what the recs are based on.

I work on old apple trees almost every working day and they are the core of my business that originally got me on the estates where I now install mixed fruit orchards from trees I size up on my own property.

Hollowed branches are no concern, I manage one tree with a hole in the trunk a small dog can walk right through that may be much more than a century old. Many have caves created by rot a coon can make a nice home in.

A tree is in danger when it ceases to grow vigorously, although occasionally a tree with a rotten base will snap there but much more often, the tree topples via uprooting.

It is useful to sometimes train a tree with a particularly weak looking, rotted out scaffold to depend on wood from other branches to harvest light, gradually shrinking the dominance of that branch and eliminating it.

However, the photos you show are strong branches I wouldn’t worry about. The new living wood is much more dominant than the mostly non-vital rotting heart wood…

I just found this- apparently some speculate that tree filling could have a certain benefit by directing the callous formation more productively towards sealing the hole, but I question that interpretation, if only out of respect to evolution. The road to false recommendations are often based on logical leaps not supported by research and there are two equally logical deductions, that one and the idea that anything that reduces evaporation encourages fungus.

That said, even within this minor controversy, it is generally recommended not to fill holes except when trying to discourage animal nesting or having kids get stuck in a hollow tree!

1 Like

Agree. In general, I’d do nothing - the ‘damage’ is already done, and I have doubts that anything, including foam, is going to have any long-term favorable impact.

Thank you for the response, squirrel nesting is my primary concern and I found a number of acorns already in the hollow, but seemed old.

Given the recommendations and papers I will just keep an eye on it and see if I can trim so it callouses over efficiently.

Thank you very much for all the insight!


Why are you concerned about squirrels? They won’t significantly add to damage and the hollows won’t escalate the overall squirrel population, IMO.

Lucky, it appears the information in your link are not research based. I was curious where they drew their conclusions from and it led to opinion based sources, no actual research. We are left to our own deductions, which are the same…

Apple trees are a strong wood species. Peaches are not. (Based entirely on my own opinion.)

I would be tempted to remove that entire smaller trunk at ground level.?
( thoughts from others ?..)

Also trimming the upper 2 pruning cuts back to the coller, there appears to be a stub

1 Like

I was wondering about taking that entire smaller trunk and certainly need to trim back the other 2 cuts to the collar.

1 Like

Do they appear to be connected above ground ?
Or separate ?

I would follow the temptation. Not just to make a single tree not compressing bark against the competitor (whether it’s codiminant sections or individual trees is only a matter of definition and of whether they are attached to the same roots), but to create the potential for a more attractive tree.

Vigorous crab seedlings are virtually indestructible if they are vigorously growing.


Is this a crab? I would follow alans advice, i have always been told that to cut open spots at an angle so water doesn’t pour in and leave them open to air. I do think it may be prettier to remove both of those smaller trunks near it and shape it up but i’m not sure i would put in the effort for a crab personally (Crabs are great but my area is entirely full of them)

I like converting wild crabs to useful (to me) apples.


Yes,. Not sure exactly what variety, but a crab apple. It is more the position, it is the only tree on an outcrop and makes the view! Good idea on keeping the water out!

1 Like

Multiple leader trees are usually seedlings- sometimes from apple seeds but more often from other crabs that somewhere back in time had a parent that was a cultivated apple. Unless its a native crab.

1 Like