North Star Cherry with mystery trunk issue


We have a 5 year old dwarf North Star cherry tree with a ugly trunk issue. This tree has ben fantastic from the beginning producing lots of cherries. This year a bit odd, there have been new blooms up to harvest!

This year was a bit lighter but several nice bowls of cherries.

One last picking was planned but the squirrels got them first.

Looking at the trunk, I noticed a very ugly trunk issue. This odd situation is a 1/2 inch step from normal bark above to a wet slimy lower area below. It goes all the way around. It was hiding behind a wire trunk cage we use to keep rabbits out. The cage was not touching the trunk in case you may speculate. Bark mulch was a bit higher than I normally have it

The tree looks healthy and produces well. Any help?

Hi Paddy,
Can’t tell if it’s canker infection or not, send a pic to your local county extension agent usually these people can help ID an issue’s probable cause. It looks like something was chewing the bark during the winter, perhaps rabbits, but you said you had a cage over the trunk, so it is an unusual deterioration. Once you think the tree is salvageable after finding the cause, you will need to use some bridge grafts to reconnect the cambium above and below the scar, or else the tree will not survive. I would suggest spacing your grafts about 1.5” apart around the trunk to assure healing can occur as soon as possible. There are several nice bridge grafting videos online to show how it’s done. But first consult the experts to Id the cause.

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What was the screen size? Was it buried in the ground?

It could have been voles

Voles was the first thing that popped in my head as well but I am no expert. Are there visible rodent teeth marks? A bit hard to tell from this picture.

Voles could do that, you wouldn’t see tiny bite marks. Google up “vole trunk damage”.

They can spend a good chunk of the winter gnawing away at it.

I think you are right after reviewing several pics of vole damage. I have not experienced this type of damage, but when I had sewer rats in my garden I was able to use rat poison near their holes to eliminate them.
I suppose one could use a Strychnine based poison to make a paste to paint the tree trunk at ground level. Would not take a lot to take those guys out. Strychnine is a main active ingredient used in various rodenticide bait products to treat for mice and rats .
The only concern is to assure however you apply it that pets or animals you care about cannot reach its application.

Well the good news is that this only their survival food for the winter, they have access to better fare for the rest of the year.

There are ways to correctly cage tree trunks to protect from voles. In my neck of the woods one important bit is that the cage must be taller than the snow line, else the voles could walk on the snow and reach the tree trunk.

If it’s slimy, it might be from canker. But excavate more of the root flare to see if it is just from decaying leaves and stuff.

You’ll want to know if you have a dripping canker at the base. Cherries can do worse with canker than, say, peaches.

I did inarch grafting on one of my cherries to save it after it got a badly cankered base. It worked, but the cankered trunk never did do well itself. The rootstock suckers I used for inarching are what grow bigger and keep that tree alive now.

The cage is 1/2 inch hardware cloth and was buried in the mulch. We had almost no snow here winter. The surface is definitely slimy

We have two other cherry trees and 3 peach trees all in rows nearby.

hard to imagen how it can look so healthy with this area looking like it happen a while ago.

I forgot to say; if you are going to put vole/mice food don’t get it from Lowe’s/Home Depot, look for a proper farm supply store. They have the stuff that will actually put up with getting wet. The regular hardware store mouse food will turn to mush in record time.

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