Fig tree growing without bark

I think this is interesting:
After I uncovered my fig tree this spring I found all the bark chewed off probably from moles, voles or
mice… In some places there’s a chewed off gap between the ground and where there is bark of about a foot … So I gave it up for Dead but didn’t cut it back
To my surprise it started growing and I think beyond any energy Reserves that might have been in the stems
I suppose a cambium layer is still intact even though it sure doesn’t seem like it since it’s chewed up pretty bad at ground level area

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The tree at first doesn’t need the cambium to grow cause the uptake of ions and water from the roots is transported to the leafes through the xylem (the wood). The cambium is needed to transport the produced energy and nutrients from the leafes back to any part of the plant including the roots.

So in conclusion your plants roots are doomed to starve if the plant doesn’t manage to resprout from a part lower than the damage.

I would consider to cut the plant back to groundlevel to encourage lower sprouts before the energy reserves of the roots are depleted. Since it is a fig it probably will resprout low anyways but I would consider to cut it to make that happen faster. You could try to root the cuttings too.


I was hoping by now it would have started shooting from the ground which in my experience they normally do if they freeze out but it hasn’t happened yet…I’ll take your advice
I hadn’t realized until you wrote your reply that growth can occur…but will be of no long term value

Air layer them. Complete the girdle, apply some rooting hormone where there is some cambrium left, add a container of soil, affix and cover. You should have a few new trees within 4-6 weeks. There are some good tutorials out there showing how to properly do an air layer. Figs are easy to root this way.As mentioned, the tree will most likely produce new shoots below the damage.
Best of luck.


Follow up on fig tree with chewed-up bark
I am expecting it to die since it has no cambium… And I’ve learned on this thread I need the cambium to transport nutrients back to the leaves and roots
But how much more time does it have?
I wonder if the chewed off bark didn’t go deep enough to harm the cambium
It’s still chugging along small fig being formed now
New growth 29"


Is it chewed like that all the way around?

All around …

I had some gnawed shallow enough for the cambium to survive and it is swollen with growth by now, and dead spots are sunken… that does not look good. It looks like some suckers are coming up though, I’d carefully clear around the base so they can grow upright and replace those trunks. Chances are the trunks will dry out before any fruit has time to ripen. You could try cutting some of the smaller trunks and using them for an inarch graft on the larger ones if there is enough bark at the base…

I have no idea for how long the roots can survive without a connection to leaves. Actually I didn’t expect the growth to survive that long.

Its an interesting experiment to watch the further development of the girdled stems. A fig will eventually resprout new growth from the roots. I think that will keep the roots alive. Maybe there already is a cambium connection to functional leaves somewhere keeping the roots fed. In theory the girdled stems could go on as long as the roots are fed from other stems (leaves). But I also think the plant will eventually stop to maintain the girdled stems and those will then die back if new fully functional stems have developed.

But as I said, I have no personal experience with fully girdled fig stems. If possible it would be very interesting if you leave at least one or two of the damaged stems as an experiment. Of course those stems are without protection from pathogenes, so thats a risk too.

Please keep us updated about this fig.

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Here in Australia the old farmers used to ring bark Eucalyptus trees to kill them. They found that cutting them off as a stump they often sprouted from epicormic buds and didn’t die. So to kill them they would ring bark them. This looks much like the rodents have done to your fig.

Hopefully your fig throws up some new shoots and doesn’t die. Figs are pretty determined to survive, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

This is the second update on the fig tree growing without bark:
@carot @hoosierbanana
There are many figs on the tree but some of the leaves are starting to show their lack of nutrients… leaves are turning yellow and tree overall does not have the same healthy looking leaves as my other trees but nonetheless still producing figs, but not yet at the ripening stage
Finally shoots from the base are starting to appear one shoot is about 30 in long
I wonder if bottom shoots will save the top part of the tree as well whereas nutrients from the top of the tree can’t get into the bottom to replenish The Roots maybe the shoots from the bottom will…I think that is the point of @carot


To lighten the load on the roots, because only the suckers are returning energy, it might help to prune away any unproductive branches now. Hoping they last long enough for you to get some fruit. I have a girdled tree as well I just left alone and it is still hanging in there, sent up suckers as well so should be fine next year although maybe a little weakened.

I just unwrapped my fig tree and came across this exact same problem. I have more shoots at the bottom, but glad I found this post. I know it’s a couple of years old, but how did the fig tree end up doing? Did it survive?

Figs that are girdled , such as the one in photo above should be cut off at ground level and allowed to send up new shoots from the ground.
Can root cuttings from the top Too.

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I had one tree like that, not 100% girdled, but with some bark split and rodent damage. Up to the summer, the branches grew nicely. Then they got weakened and eventually died. The half damaged and new shoots did great.

So I’ll cut off any branches with damaged more than 50% of the bark. As long as you retain some old wood, the fruit yield does not drop so much. Those damaged shoots should be cut eventually. Fig wood is very expendable.

Well, the tree put up lots of shoots, so survive it did.
The chewed branches lived for the season, made a few smaller figs, then didn’t survive to the next season.
But those chewed branches weren’t missed since the tree had so many new shoots.
Now. I don’t pile leaves around base line winter to discourage the little critters from nesting and eating stem bark
Good luck!


Thank you!! I have a plan for next year. Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper,the works. Mine is only 4 years old, and last year was the first good crop. Couldn’t be worse timing to shelter the wildlife.

Good to know. I think in the long run, it is better just to prune the damaged branches and let new shoots grow. Fig plants can take heavy pruning easily. New shoots can be very strong.

To make my winter covering easier, I pruned fig extensively.
I’m wondering if I took off too much fig producing side branches.
The first and third Screenshot_20210410-083437|690x982 pics are fig trees I overwinter in basement…there are so many more nodes on branches than pruned one. Seems more nodes on branches means more figs


@ Franp

You are just fine.

In warm climate, folks prune fig trees to decent size. But in cold climate, we generally prune to 3-5’ tall. This helps wrapping.

If you want any breba crop, yes you pruned too hard since breba crop fruits on last year’s canes. But main crop fruits on new canes. For your in-ground tree, I’d train to about 12-20 fruiting canes. Each cane can bear about 5-10 figs. So it can give you from 100 to 200 figs. Hard to say about your container plant. But I’ll keep about a dozen fruiting canes.

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