I have an almond tree on a house I purchased. The tree looks very old and the large bulk of it didn't have much green - looked very dead. It was growing sideways and near the base of the tree some new branches had grown and 99% of the leaves the tree has were on those so I figured it would be best to cut the tree back to the base.

I just cut it back to base and noticed some damage inside the tree - my neighbor said it looked like carpenter ant damage, which I've seen before and it did appear like that... I noticed no live insects inside the tree anymore.

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My question now is if there are any steps I should take in filling the large hole at the base where the hole is. Also, if there are any other follow-up steps I should do to help preserve the health of the tree. If it matters, the tree is an Almond tree, though I've only ever got a single almond from it in 3 years.


I want to post a follow-up photo of a shot where you can see more of the tree in case this changes anything. I'm thinking from the feedback that cutting it back a little further would be good. Part of it does appear to be healthy, but if this will ultimately be of no use due to the infestation/damage then digging the tree out is an option. (The part I cut is in the bottom right)

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2 Answers 2


Yeah, carpenter ant damage and apparent heart rot. You aren't going to be able to do anything at this point. Definitely do not fill it, as that will seal in moisture. I'd recommend replacing the tree. If it has strong sentimental value, perhaps you can leave it, and just fight individual symptoms as they go along, but this tree is past it's prime.

And leaving that stub isn't useful. Cut it back to the base (couple inches from where it splits off) at a good outward facing slant.

Also, don't apply a wound dressing. From my answer here:

Research indicates that wound dressings (materials such as tar or paint) do not prevent decay and may even interfere with wound closure. Wound dressings can have the following detrimental effects:

  • Prevent drying and encourage fungal growth
  • Interfere with formation of wound wood or callus tissue
  • Inhibit compartmentalization
  • Possibly serve as a food source for pathogens


So don't treat the wounds. The only thing that the plant needs is a good, clean cut to heal over. If you already cut out the dead, you did the right thing, and it would be best to leave it.

  • 1
    Thanks for the very informative answer - very helpful! I posted a follow-up picture that may or may not help figure this dilemma out a bit better.
    – jhawes
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:14
  • @jhawes Based on the second pic, looks like it would be possible to tilt the cut slightly in (to help keep water out).
    – J. Musser
    Feb 5, 2015 at 0:31
  • Got it, so cut it so that the opening faces the ground to avoid water from pooling inside. I'll jump on this asap and post a follow-up pic
    – jhawes
    Feb 5, 2015 at 5:14

I would cut it so that water can't pool inside of it... since it isn't alive still, you shouldn't gain much by painting it with Tree Wound, but it wouldn't hurt either.

if it isn't feasible to cut it down to where water won't pool, you could drill it out, or fill it with expanding foam and paint it.. but you may have to repeat ever 4-5 years.

  • 3
    It has been shown that wound dressings can cause more harm than good - also fillers should be used carefully. In a case like this, the structural integrity of the tree is already compromised, and you are unlikely to help it stay healthy/heal using a filler in this context. You may even increase the rate of decomposition of the heartwood.
    – J. Musser
    Feb 4, 2015 at 0:38

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