Work is underway to save vandalized historic trees in Halifax’s public gardens

HALIFAX – As arborist experts work to save nearly 30 historic trees that have been vandalized in Halifax, it may take years to know how many trees will survive the damage, the public gardens supervisor said Monday. from Halifax.

Last month, a Gardens security guard discovered that strips of bark had been stripped around the trunks of numerous trees, most of which were between 50 and 200 years old.

Sean Street, the horticulture supervisor for the gardens, says the cuts – which appear to have been made with a hatchet or small ax – caused more than $350,000 in damage.

“But that’s just a number; some of those trees are invaluable,” Street said in an interview.

« You can’t take $350,000 and find a few 200-year-old trees and put them in the ground, » he added.

Bark cutting – called girdling – is a way to kill a tree without cutting it down. If the cambium layer – the part of the tree that produces new wood – is damaged enough, the tree will die.

Four of the 32 damaged trees were not salvageable and have been removed from the gardens, Street said, adding that it is unclear how many of the remaining 28 vandalized trees will be lost due to the damage.

Longtime arborist Stan Kochanoff of Falmouth, Nova Scotia, is working with the gardens’ horticulture team to determine the best methods of cleaning and dressing tree wounds to promote healing.

Street said they used coconut fiber to protect tree wounds and would soon attempt to graft bridges on trees, which involves using healthy twigs called scion wood to bind bark together. sound on each side of the wound.

The hope is that the trees were healthy enough before the injury and can survive on their existing nutrient stores while the graft eventually reconnects the cambium layer around the bark.

« The longer the tree can survive on its own reserves, the more useful bridge grafts become, and you hope to reach the point where the tree has recovered and can feed itself, » Street said.

By this time next year, Street expects they will be able to tell if the transplant was successful. « It’s going to be a long, drawn-out thing, » Street said.

The Street team will regularly monitor the health of the trees. For some of the young trees, it may be clear in about a year whether they are showing signs of decline. For trees over 100 years old, it may take several years to see the impact of the damage.

Street hopes « several » trees will survive, especially older ones with strong root systems, but he says it’s too early to tell.

At the time of the break-in and tree vandalism, there were no cameras installed in the public gardens or night security. This has since changed, and security cameras and video cameras are now in place.

A Halifax Regional Police spokesperson said in an email that the vandalism is still being investigated and police are asking anyone with information to contact them.

Kevin Osmond, senior supervisor of the Halifax Urban Forestry Department, told reporters last month that whoever caused the damage « knew exactly what they were doing ».

“They intentionally came out to damage this tree, to try to kill this tree,” he said, pointing to a 200-year-old weeping beech tree.

Street said part of what makes the act of vandalism so upsetting is that a new tree is highly unlikely to grow as old as some of the damaged trees in the gardens.

« I hate to say it, but we may be in a situation of global warming and invasive pests where we can never grow a 200-year-old beech again, » he said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 15, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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