Why Are Some Trees Painted White?

source: istockphoto.com

I always used to wonder why some trees have their trunks painted white. Every time I passed by these trees, I couldn’t help but wonder if it meant something important. Recently, I learned that tree planters use this interesting trick to convey a very specific message about the trees. It turns out that the color of the paint is a code that communicates crucial information about the tree’s fate and well-being.

You might have noticed that orange dots on trees often indicate that the tree is going to be cut down. Similarly, purple markings often mean “no trespassing” or that the tree is on private property. But the white paint serves an entirely different purpose. It is applied to trees during winter to help prevent a condition known as sunscald.

During winter, trees face extreme fluctuations in temperatures. During the day, the sun can heat up the tree’s bark, causing it to expand. But as night falls, the temperature drops drastically, leading to the bark contracting and cooling down rapidly. These rapid temperature changes can cause the bark to split, leading to significant damage to the tree’s trunk.

That’s where the white paint comes in handy. The light color of the paint helps to reflect sunlight away from the tree’s trunk, preventing it from overheating during the day. This, in turn, minimizes the risk of cracks and splits due to extreme temperature changes. Think of it as a natural sunscreen for trees, protecting their delicate bark from the harsh winter elements.


Now that I knew the purpose behind the white paint, I was curious to learn more about how to apply it correctly. As it turns out, tree planters typically use water-based latex paint for this job. It’s essential to dilute the paint properly to achieve the best results. The general rule of thumb is to mix one gallon of paint with one gallon of water. This mixture ensures that the paint is not too thick and can be easily applied to the tree’s bark.

To apply the paint, a paintbrush is usually used. However, for larger areas or a more efficient process, some tree planters opt to spray the diluted paint onto the trunk. Whichever method is chosen, it’s essential to cover the entire trunk uniformly, ensuring that all parts are protected from the winter elements.

One of the things that intrigued me the most was the recommended frequency of applying the white paint. Tree planters typically repaint the trunks only once a year.

Discovering the reason behind trees being painted white was an enlightening experience. It’s fascinating to know that something as simple as paint can have such a significant impact on the well-being of trees, especially during winter. The white paint acts as a protective shield, preventing sunscald and potential damage caused by extreme temperature fluctuations. So, the next time you see a tree with a fresh coat of white paint, you’ll know that it’s a thoughtful gesture to keep our leafy friends healthy and thriving!