How to properly collect bark from trees and shrubs
You are not alone in your desire to learn how to properly harvest bark from trees to increase your chances of survival. After all, it is widely used in herbalism and cooking, and not only, but nevertheless, when asked how to collect it correctly, many fall into confusion. And after all, really – how to get it from a tree or shrub, while getting the maximum benefit and causing a minimum of harm? (And better – not applying it at all).
Therefore, in this article we will discuss four basic rules for harvesting trees and shrubs. The authors of the original article also offer a course on botany and collecting wild plants: Botany & Wildcrafting Course.
Rule # 1. Never harvest bark from the main trunk of a living tree or bush.
Most people believe that collecting in this way is correct and ethical. But no. The main reason is because each time you peel off the surface layer in this way, you create an open wound in the tree. It can bring disease or disrupt nutrient circulation. It is especially bad for a tree if the bark is peeled off all around its circumference. Such ringing will block the flow of nutrients and everything above the peeled ring will die. This can only be done by collecting material from non-living plants. More on this in Rule # 3.
And where, then, to collect it? About this in the next rule.
Rule # 2. Collect bark from trimmed lower branches
It is best to rip off the bark from the branches – but not from any, of course.
Most practitioners talk about picking up trees by cutting them off before doing so. This is a much more ethical method than ripping off the trunk. But this can be difficult, especially if all the branches are in the crown, which is ten meters above you. It is best to ask those who are good at climbing trees, if possible, to cut them – for safety reasons, of course.
But if possible, it is better to choose lower branches. An important part of the harvesting skill is the ability to choose the place on the branch where you want to cut. In general, where the damage will quickly heal and growth can resume.
Here are some tips:
- Always prune perpendicular to the growth axis of the branch.
- The cut should be clean and even, so make sure your pruner or knife is sharp enough. The fact is that an uneven or oblique cut often leads to a sad opportunity for a tree to pick up an infection.
- For the same purpose, the instrument should always be clean and disinfected before use.
Wood safety is important!
Rule # 3. It is only worth collecting bark from the main trunk from fallen or falling trees.
As mentioned in the first rule, collecting from the main trunk is bad taste and disrespect for life. However, things change, if the tree has little to live on – why not use its heritage to good use. Although these plants are long-livers, they still fall quite often – after all, the forest is constantly being renewed.
Of course, bark cannot be harvested from rotting or rotting trunks, or from ancient tree stumps, although most trees remain good enough for harvesting for a long time. But there are exceptions. For example, the bark of a wild cherry must be harvested fresh, not from long-fallen branches or dead trees, and then dried. The reason is that it ferments quickly enough, becoming hazardous to health. In general, it is always worth examining the collected bark from all sides, and it is also advisable to study the tree from which it was collected, in particular, to read about it in advance. You can find many recommendations and useful tips for each plant.
Never and under no circumstances should you cut trees just for the sake of their bark or roots! Not only is it unethical and wrong, it is also unprofitable. Alas, this is one of the sad reasons why many trees whose bark is used in herbalism (for example, red elm) is decreasing.
Rule # 4. Harvest bark in early spring or late fall
These seasons are regarded as the best by those practitioners who live in temperate climates with pronounced winter-spring-summer-fall cycles.
During these times, nutrients circulate most actively, and the bark is constantly growing, although the intensity and timing of this process differs from species to species. Therefore, again, you need to study those trees with which you expect to deal, and if possible – and consult with more experienced practitioners.
Tearing off bark from branches or roots is a matter that requires endurance. Always determine if you need an inner or outer cortex. The outer one is used, for example, in the wild cherry, and the inner one is used in the exotic plant sassafras. The fact is that the composition of different layers of the bark differs markedly in different species. Therefore, some trees are used more often than others in the practice of herbalism.
Knowing how to harvest bark, herbs, and various plant parts is a very important skill for both the herbalist and the survivalist. If you are ready to raise your level of practice in herbalism and other “natural” arts – then collecting bark is a great step forward for you!