The Trouble with Tree Sap

Tree Sap

When searching for a tree services provider, you might be surprised to find that sap removal is a rare offering.

Sap isn’t harmful to the tree, bugs or even to humans if accidentally ingested (those with children may have figured this out already). However, it’s sticky, can be smelly and if it gets on your car or windows, it can be a real pain.

Instead of trying to make your tree sap-free, which likely won’t happen, it’s better to know how to remove the sticky substance from metal, glass and clothing. Rubbing alcohol does a great job of dissolving sap, and nail polish remover gets it off skin. A de-greasing dish soap also works magic. Peanut butter is a go-to trick for getting it out of hair, thanks to the natural oils, as is mayonnaise.

What Is Sap?

Sap comes from a tree’s xylem cells, and is made up mostly of water with some minerals, sugar, nutrients and hormones mixed in. Tree sap can be found in sapwood, which creates carbon dioxide. If the carbon dioxide creates pressure inside the tree, the sap is forced out in openings or wounds.

Excessive heat, the kind that comes with those sizzling Utah summers, also can cause sap to ooze, and explains why it’s most commonly spotted in spring when severe temperature fluctuations occur.

Trees have a limited amount of sap, but can replenish their supply throughout the year. In the colder months, the roots suckle water from the ground, which replenishes the water-based sap. Regular tree trimming services can, of course, cause wounds in trees and allow for an exit for sap. The cycle is a natural one, and usually doesn’t cause concern. However, some exceptions exist.

Tree Services for Sap Gone Bad

When sap oozes unnaturally, it might be a sign of pests, fungus or disease. Most trees won’t leak sap unless they’re damaged, so keep an eye out for wounds and holes.

Bacterial canker is a common tree disease that can be caused by pruning, cracks from a freezing winter or sheer impact. As the tree heals from whatever trauma it suffered, bacteria may sneak in and cause unusually high pressure. You can spot bacterial canker by looking for wilting branches.

Another common problem is slime flux, which is also a bacterial infection that has oozing sap as a symptom. It will look slimy, smell sour and turn gray when it dries.

Also keep an eye out for root rot fungus, which grows when the tree stays too moist for long periods. Certain pests, including borers, love tree sap (especially when it’s on fruit trees).

Pruning and cutting trees is a necessity, but it can provide an inlet for bacteria. The only way to really know if your sap is healthy is to have your arborist take a look. Contact Reliable Tree Care for all tree services, including a sap assessment and best pruning practices.