Q: We have a two year old weeping willow with a trunk about two inches diameter. Deer rubbed all the bark off for a length of about two feet. It looks like a slick pole now. Will the bark grow back eventually, should we treat it some way, or is it compost?
A: I’m afraid the tree is toast (or compost). If the wound was only partway around the trunk, the willow could expand its bark on either side of the damage and grow over the injury. But with the trunk completely girdled, the tree has no way to get sugars from the leaves down to the roots or moisture from the roots up to the leaves. Death is the result. You’re welcome to plant another tree in the same spot but be sure to protect it from deer damage. Mickey Cummings, University of Georgia Extension agent in Union County, says you can wrap two or three layers of chicken wire around the trunk from ground level to five feet high. The wire will have to be removed each spring to allow the trunk to grow. An alternative is to drive four six-foot long pieces of rebar into the ground around the trunk and a few inches away and wrap the wire around the steel rods. This would solve the problem of having to remove the wire each year.