By: Teo Spengler
Anyone lucky enough to have trees in the backyard can’t help but grow attached to them. If you notice that a vandal has cut into their bark, you’ll immediately want to find tree carving solutions. It is possible to start healing a carved tree. Read on for top tips on how to repair graffiti carvings in trees.
Fixing a Vandalized Tree
Tree bark is very vulnerable to vandalism. You know how even awkward landscaping attempts, like lawn mowing and weed trimming, can affect trees. Deliberate slicing into the tree’s bark can cause even more damage.
If the tree was vandalized in early spring or fall, the bark is looser because of plant tissue growth. This can make result in greater problems for the tree. But don’t worry. You can take steps to start fixing a vandalized tree as soon as you notice the problem.
There are no magic wands when it comes to tree carving solutions. Vandalized tree care takes time and you won’t see immediate progress.
If you are wondering how to repair graffiti carvings in trees, the first thing to do is to assess the damage. Did the vandal carve initials into the tree, or was a large piece of bark cut out? As long as the vandalism did not remove more bark around more than 25 percent of the trunk diameter, it should survive.
Vandalized Tree Care
Healing a carved tree can involve replacing sheets of bark. If the vandal cut out sections of bark and you can locate them, you may be able to reattach them to the tree. To attempt this type of vandalized tree care, put the removed bark pieces back into the bark as if they were puzzle pieces, finding the original location for each piece.
Healing a carved tree requires that you strap these pieces in place with something like burlap pieces or duct tape. Leave this in place for at least three months. Fixing a vandalized tree with this approach works best if you act quickly after the damage is inflicted.
If the cuts involve carving initials or other figures into the bark, you can take comfort from the fact that they probably won’t kill the tree if you jump into action quickly. These types of cutting wounds heal better if they are clean with respect to the vertical grain of the bark.
Go in with a scalpel or exacto knife and cut along the graffiti edges. Cleaning the edges of the wound promotes healing. Cut out groves, not the entire area. Do not use sealant but allow the wounds to dry in open air.
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Read more about General Tree Care
In decades past, recommendations were often made to apply tree paint to wounds. The idea was that this paint would prevent decay, help speed healing, and improve the appearance of the cut. Although these claims have been debunked for years, there are still many tree wound dressing products that can be purchased online or at garden supply stores. Many of them are petroleum-based and advertised as being waterproof and flexible to keep insects and fungi from invading the pruned areas. Better yet, some of these same products claim they can be used for multiple purposes, from waterproofing and sealing gutters and roof flashings, to protecting the undersides of lawnmower decks. Clearly, these materials don’t seem like they would be healthy to apply to living tissue. I certainly wouldn’t want to get a tree dressing on my own skin, let alone a cut or scrape.
In reality, pruning paint may impede healing and encourage the growth of rot organisms and insect infestation. Rather than seal out infection, wound dressings often seal in moisture and decay. In most cases, it is best to simply let wounds seal on their own. Over millennia, trees have developed effective mechanisms for this. Unlike people or animals, woody plants are unable to heal damaged tissues. Instead, they compartmentalize wounds with layers of cells that prevent damage from spreading any further. A properly pruned tree or shrub will seal off wounds and prevent decay organisms from entering the trunk. Naturally, small wounds seal much faster than large ones, making a clear argument for pruning and training plants when they are young.
By the same token, you should never attempt to fill large cracks or holes in trees. Although it may be tempting to plug a large opening with cement or foam, neither of these materials will bond with the wood of the tree and they will hold moisture, speed the development of wood decay fungi, and obstruct the natural compartmentalization process. A better approach is to monitor the tree’s health and consult with a certified arborist if you think it might become a hazard.
Are you interested in trying to save broken branches on your tree? Read this related question of the week.
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Coral Castle's own promotional material says Edward Leedskalnin was suddenly rejected by his 16-year-old fiancée Agnes Skuvst in Latvia, just one day before the wedding. Leaving for America, he came down with allegedly terminal tuberculosis, but spontaneously healed, stating that magnets had some effect on his disease. [ citation needed ]
He spent more than 28 years building Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view him while he worked [ contradictory ] . A few teenagers claimed to have witnessed his work, reporting that he had caused the blocks of coral to move like hydrogen balloons.  [ better source needed ] The only advanced tool that Leedskalnin spoke of using was a "perpetual motion holder".
Leedskalnin originally built a castle, which he named "Ed's Place", in Florida City, Florida, around 1923. He purchased the land from Ruben Moser whose wife had assisted him when he had another very bad case of tuberculosis.   Florida City, which borders the Everglades, is the southernmost city in the United States that is not on an island. At the time, it was an extremely remote location with very little development. The castle remained in Florida City until about 1936 when Leedskalnin decided to move and take the castle with him. Its second and final location has the mailing address of 28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33033, which now appears within the census-generated overlay of Leisure City but which is actually unincorporated county territory. He reportedly chose relocation as a means to protect his privacy when discussion about developing land in the original area of the castle started.  He spent three years moving the component structures of Coral Castle 10 miles (16 km) north from Florida City to its current location outside Homestead, Florida.
Leedskalnin named his new place "Rock Gate" after the huge rear swinging gate he built into the back wall. He continued to work on the castle until his death in 1951. The coral pieces that are part of the newer castle, not among those transported from the original location, were quarried on the property only a few feet away from the castle's walls. The pool and the pit beside the southern wall are quarries. The east and west quarries have been filled in.
At Florida City, Leedskalnin charged visitors ten cents apiece to tour the castle grounds, but after moving to Homestead, he asked for donations of twenty five cents, but let visitors enter free if they had no money. There are signs carved into rocks at the front gate to "Ring Bell Twice". He would come down from his living quarters in the second story of the castle tower close to the gate and conduct the tour. He never told anyone who asked him how he made the castle. He would simply answer "It's not difficult if you know how."
When asked why he had built the castle, Leedskalnin would vaguely answer it was for his "Sweet Sixteen". This is widely believed to be a reference to Agnes Skuvst (often misspelled as "Scuffs"). In Leedskalnin's own publication A Book in Every Home, he implies his "Sweet Sixteen" was more an ideal than a reality. According to a Latvian account, the girl existed, but her name was actually Hermīne Lūsis. 
When Leedskalnin became ill in November 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate "Going to the Hospital" and took the bus to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. He suffered a stroke at one point, either before he left for the hospital or at the hospital. He died twenty-eight days later of pyelonephritis (a kidney infection) at the age of 64. His death certificate noted that his death was a result of "uremia failure of kidneys, as a result of the infection and abscess". 
While the property was being investigated, US$3,500 (equivalent to $34,475 in 2019) was found among Leedskalnin's personal belongings. He had made his income from conducting tours, selling pamphlets about various subjects (including magnetic currents) and the sale of a portion of his 10-acre (4.0 ha) property for the construction of U.S. Route 1.  As he had no will, the castle became the property of his closest living relative in America, a nephew from Michigan named Harry. 
Coral Castle's website reports that the nephew was in poor health and he sold the castle to an Illinois family in 1953. However, this story differs from the obituary of a former Coral Castle owner, Julius Levin, a retired jeweler from Chicago, Illinois. The obituary states Levin had purchased the land from the state of Florida in 1952 and may not have been aware there was even a castle on the land. 
The new owners turned it into a tourist attraction and changed the name of Rock Gate to Rock Gate Park, and later to Coral Castle. 
In January 1981, Levin sold the castle to Coral Castle, Inc., for US$175,000 (equivalent to $492,139 in 2019).  The company retains ownership today.
In 1984 the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was added under the name of "Rock Gate", but the name on the list was changed to "Coral Castle" in 2011. 
The stone sign just inside the property that says "Adm. 10c Drop Below" is not original to Coral Castle. Leedskalnin made this sign and placed it in front of his earlier location at Florida City when he was tired of giving a "free show" to visitors who were careless and trampled his shrubbery. This sign was donated by the owners of Ed's Place and placed here in subsequent years. [ citation needed ]
The grounds of Coral Castle consist of 1,100 short tons (1,000 t) of stones in the form of walls, carvings, furniture, and a castle tower. Commonly mistakenly believed to be made of coral, it is actually made of oolite, also known as oolitic limestone. Oolite is a sedimentary rock composed of small spherical grains of concentrically layered carbonate that may include localized concentrations of fossil shells and coral. Oolite is found throughout southeastern Florida from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys.  Oolite is often found beneath only several inches of topsoil, such as at the Coral Castle site.
The stones are fastened together without mortar. They are set on top of each other using their weight to keep them together. The craftsmanship detail is so fine and the stones are connected with such precision that no light passes through the joints. The 8-foot (2.4 m) tall vertical stones that make up the perimeter wall have a uniform height. Even with the passage of decades the stones have not shifted.
Among the features and carvings are a two-story castle tower that served as Leedskalnin's living quarters (walls consisting of 8-foot-high pieces of stone), an accurate sundial, a Polar telescope, an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a fountain, celestial stars and planets, and numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces include a heart-shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty-five rocking chairs, chairs resembling crescent moons, a bathtub, beds, and a throne.
With few exceptions, the objects are made from single pieces of stone that weigh on average 15 short tons (14 t) each. The largest stone weighs 30 short tons (27 t) and the tallest are two monoliths standing 25 ft (7.6 m) each.
A 9-short-ton (8.2 t) revolving 8-foot tall gate is a famous structure of the castle, documented on the television programs In Search of.  and That's Incredible!.  The gate is carved so that it fits within a quarter of an inch of the walls. It was well-balanced, reportedly so that a child could open it with the push of a finger. The mystery of the gate's perfectly balanced axis and the ease with which it revolved lasted for decades until it stopped working in 1986. In order to remove it, six men and a 50-short-ton (45 t) crane were used. Once the gate was removed, the engineers discovered how Leedskalnin had centered and balanced it. He had drilled a hole from top to bottom and inserted a metal shaft. The rock rested on an old truck bearing. It was the rusting out of this bearing that resulted in the gate's failure to revolve. Complete with new bearings and shaft, it was set back into place on July 23, 1986.  It failed in 2005 and was again repaired however, it does not rotate with the same ease it once did.
Coral Castle remains a popular tourist attraction. Books, magazines, and television programs speculate about how Leedskalnin was able to construct the structure and move stones that weigh many tons. Claims that nobody had ever seen Leedskalnin at work and that he levitated his stones have been repudiated. Orval Irwin reportedly witnessed him quarry his stones and erect parts of his wall, and illustrated the methods in his book Mr. Can't Is Dead.  The Nemith Film Collection produced a short film documentary in 1944 of him at work [ contradictory ] . Coral Castle's website states that, "If anyone ever questioned Ed about how he moved the blocks of coral, Ed would only reply that he understood the laws of weight and leverage well."  He also stated that he had "discovered the secrets of the pyramids", referring to the Great Pyramid of Giza. 
Why You Should Stop Carving on Trees
After a summer of hiking and camping in the beautiful little nooks of Colorado’s wilderness, a common question kept creeping into my consciousness – what the hell is on all these trees? It seemed like every other tree along the trail was littered with the love-soaked J+A=4eva or the ever-popular so and so was here declarations. People everywhere were carving trees and this was maddening.
I found this infuriating not only because it actually damages the tree, but also because it’s just a pointless lack of respect for nature and for life. If you’ve ever dropped in to a back bowl in the dead of winter or gotten caught in a downpour on a backpacking trip, you’re well aware that nature doesn’t belong to you. It could care less who you are, that you’re here, or who you’re =4eva with. It should be respected. Would you walk into your friend’s house and start carving your name into their walls? Please then, I beg you, treat nature like you’d treat your friend’s house.
If you’re not convinced by the lovey-dovey trees have feelings argument, enter science. While it can’t chase you down after you cut into it with a knife, trees are actual living organisms that are affected by these carvings. Tree bark is similar to our skin. The outer layer of bark contains dead tissue that acts as a protective layer for the vital vascular system that makes up the inner bark. When carving a live tree, the blade is likely to cut through the outer bark and cut into the inner bark. The inner bark contains living tissue called the phloem which carries nutrients, mainly sucrose, made during photosynthesis to all parts of the tree (leaves, branches, etc). If this vital vascular structure is damaged, it cuts off the supply of nutrients causing it to eventually starve to death. Cutting into the bark can also damage the xylem which transports water and nutrients from the roots up to the rest of the tree. Much like the phloem, cutting into this conductive tissue stops nutrients from getting to the other areas of the tree. Wherever the cut has penetrated the xylem, that area of the tree will die which can eventually kill the entire tree.
So you see, something you think is as simple as scribbling your initials in a tree on the side of a trail can have lasting effects on the entire ecosystem around it. So next time you venture out into the wild, leave your knife in your pocket and just enjoy actually being in nature. We all know you were here, you Instagrammed it, hashtagged #naturelover, and threw a filter on it. So leave the trees be, leave the knife in your pocket, and show some respect for this wonderful world we are so fortunate to explore.
National Parks Traveler
Graffiti continues to be a problem at Zion National Park/NPS
Editor's note: This updates with additional comments from Zion National Park staff.
There are places in the National Park System where carvings, etchings, and even 19th century “graffiti” are preserved. Places like El Morro National Monument in New Mexico, Arches National Park in Utah when you consider pictographs, and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, there is a surprising number of 21st century individuals who think it’s perfectly appropriate to carve their names, initials, and other signs and symbols into national park landscapes.
Perhaps the most infamous case in recent years was that of a New York City woman who went through at least seven Western national parks in 2014 and, using acrylic paints and markers, painted and drew images on rocks and cliff faces. Casey Nocket, who promoted her “work” on Instagram, eventually was tracked down, charged, and pleaded guilty to defacing government property. She was sentenced to two years’ probation and 200 hours of community service.
And she was banned from all lands administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers during her probation period.
Nocket isn’t alone when it comes to defacing the parks. In recent years problems with graffiti have surfaced at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and Colorado National Monument, among other sites.
Graffiti with paint is one thing, carving your name or initials into sandstone is something entirely different.
At Zion National Park in Utah, graffiti seems to be an ongoing battle. So much has been surfacing that park officials are urging the public not to leave their “mark” during their visit to the park.
Amanda Dworak Rowland, the park's spokesperson, said Zion staff constantly encourage visitors to follow Leave No Trace practices when exploring the scenic park.
"Our park website and social media outlets provide more information about Leave No Trace as well," she said in an email Friday. "There is also information and messaging shared throughout the Park Service about how across the Colorado Plateau, American Indians, settlers, and cowboys all left signs of their presence. These marks are part of regional history, dating back more than 1,000 years.
"But the world is a different place now: there are more people and more choices in how we express ourselves. Writing on the walls isn’t necessary, and in a national park, it’s illegal. This is a growing problem facing many national parks, as you may have seen in recent news stories. We are encouraging visitors to take only photographs and leave only footprints."
According to a park release, nearly every day "staff find words and shapes, carved, drawn, painted (with mud, dirt, pigment, paint), or scratched on rocks and more recently even carved within moss. Over four million people visit Zion every year. Please allow other park visitors their opportunity for discovery, by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts, and other objects as you found them.”
Sometimes the Zion National Park vandals use paint.