Ficus Techniques : 24

Wound rot or how to heal a wound?


Eric Navao from Chicago asks:

"I bought this tiny fat tree and found out that the cut or chop was kinda rough and sort of soft so I cleaned it and covered it with cutpaste. Last weekend I checked on the cut to see if it callused or started healing; it did not. It was soft and kinda moist, and it was rotting. So I cleaned and scraped off all of the soft stuff down to the hard wood and covered it with cut paste again but after a few days, there are some watery stuff coming from the cut so I removed the cut paste again and just let it dry. I attached some photos for you to see the tree and the rot on the cut.

What should I do to prevent more rot ? "

Small Ficus showing dramatic taper.

Cut surface with rot removed down to solid wood.


Ficus are normally quite resistant to wound rot. But occasionally rot will develop in a wound. A wound of this size on a small Ficus will take many years to seal itself especially in a tree grown in a small pot and whose growth is restricted with bonsai culture. Under ideal growing conditions trees growing in the ground in tropical areas with very strong top growth large wounds can callus over very quickly.

Covering any wound area with a "dressing" may result in fungus finding a very desirable home in which to live. Most good cut pastes have anti-fungals added to them. I did some experiments using plain old modeling clay to seal Ficus wounds. The result was fungus growth in the wound and propagation of the rot down the stem and further death of surrounding tissues. Never do this with your own trees.

Use only a bonsai wound dressing, cut paste, that is commercially available. It is also wise to discard left over cut paste after a few years as the anti-fungals etc. in the paste may have deteriorated.

I think at this point I would allow the wound, with all the soft material removed from it and cleaned down to good solid hard wood to thoroughly dry and begin healing. After a month or two I would freshen up the edges of the healing cambium with a knife removing maybe 1/4" of the growing rim and use some fresh cut past only on the edge of the wound and not over the center.

Also avoid applying moisture to the cut area by watering the soil but avoiding the cut surface.

Hopefully this will allow the wound to seal over and not encourage rot.

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