Storms can be tough on trees, even large and established trees. A split trunk may look like the end for a favorite tree, but sometimes it is possible to save it. The following guide will walk you through the basic process of fixing a split trunk and provide guidance on determining when it is time to give up and have the tree removed.

Assess the damage

Every split is different. Begin by looking over the damage the day after it occurs. First, assess how even the split is. If one side of the trunk is obviously larger than the other side of the split, the larger side is likely what can be saved. If the split is roughly equal, you may be able to splice the trunk back together. Nutrients for the tree are carried through the thin greenish layer directly beneath the bark, so both sides of the split need sufficient amounts of this layer still attached to the root system to survive. If the leaves are beginning to wilt on one side, then there isn't sufficient trunk surface left to support that part of the tree.

Trim out the damage

Begin by cutting out the damaged side of the split if survival looks bleak for it after your assessment. Use a clean pruning saw and cut it off as flush to the other side of the split as possible. The goal is to try and maintain a clean cut without removing any more of the trunk wood at the split juncture than absolutely necessary.

As for the bark below the removed split section, use a sharp knife to trim up the bark so the edge is smooth and not ragged. This allows the bark to heal over more quickly, similar to forming a scab, which increases the chances of the tree's survival.

Splint the split

If it appears both sides of the tree can survive, splinting is your best option. It can take many years for a tree to produce sufficient growth to fuse a split back together, so splinting provides a strong way to help the tree along. Begin by wrapping cord around the trunk to tightly hold the split back together. Then, use a drill to create a hole through both sides of the split. Insert a rust-proof bolt into the hole, securing the trunk permanently together. Depending on the extent of the split, you may need to use multiple bolts. Remove the cord or rope afterward.

The reason for bolting the split together is because it takes so long for a tree to heal, and leaving it tied will eventually choke the trunk so nutrients can't travel to the canopy. A tree can easily survive a few puncture wounds and it will eventually grow over the bolts.

Continue to monitor

Keep an eye on the tree after you have made the repairs. If you begin to notice severe dieback, or the symptoms of disease or pest infestation, contact a tree service like Souliere & Son Tree SpeclSts. They can determine whether it is possible to continue to save the tree or if the time has come to remove it.