Birch Sap Tapping- To Seal, or not to Seal?

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C.H.

New Member
Mar 17, 2021
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Lothian
Hello there folks,

finally joined up! I'm wondering what the consensus is here and your opinions.

I'm planning on taking a living branch of birch to cut to size for plugs, then sterilise it before returning to plug the holes where I've been tapping sap - & also to saw off the protruding part. Is this a good way to go about it for the tree?

I've also seen the school of thought that says just let it leak/bleed out when done...is this when the rate of sap drops to very low though?

& from what I've seen commercial tappers tap the whole small season from same trees correct?

Thanks for your input!
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
5,394
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Mid Wales
Hi C.H.; welcome to the forum :)

As JD said, seal it. A birch will also pour sap from a cut branch at this time of year so I'd use something else for your plug TBH.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,849
867
Canada
The ones I have done have been fine, if rather calloused, using any nearby, appropriately-sized dead twiggage cut to shape. But, some accounts shed doubt on how much the plug prevents the collateral effects of the wound developing over time. Might as well use a sock :lol:
 

FerlasDave

Full Member
Jun 18, 2008
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Off the beaten track
Next time you find a birch branch or fire log try wiping some washing liquid and water over one end then blow the other.. Birch is far too porous to seal a wound alone, and using other wood from the forest floor could also bring in infection.

I would use a plug from the tree itself but coat the external end in melted bees wax before hammering it nice and tight. Capillary action should ensure the lignin soaks up the wax before it solidifies.
 
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MrEd

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Feb 18, 2010
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Next time you find a birch branch or fire log try wiping some washing liquid and water over one end then blow the other.. Birch is far too porous to seal a wound alone, and using other wood from the forest floor could also bring in infection.

I would use a plug from the tree itself but coat the external end in melted bees wax before hammering it nice and tight. Capillary action should ensure the lignin soaks up the wax before it solidifies.

this is good advice. There definitely needs to be some sort of ‘cap’ on the plug.

I seal with sticks of birch hammered in then cut flush, then beeswax smeared on the the end to seal it from a) sap oozing out and b) parasites etc getting in from the outside.

you could probably use birch tar/glue or some other natural substances etc.

definitely seal the hole or you are damaging the tree unnecessarily and being a bit disrespectful which is a bit off tbh.
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
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Seal the wound. Inert plastic. The sap loss can shock the tree. We have birds here, "Sap-Suckers," which drill enough holes to drink the oozing sap, enough to kill the birch trees.
Buy a small tin of "Pruning Paste" such as is used in orchards and vineyards.
At least then you can find the wound site next year.
 
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C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,710
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Birch tapping has been discussed before, I recollect. I think there was mixed opinion on the effect of boring holes vs trimming branch tips on the life expectancy of the tree.


 

FerlasDave

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Jun 18, 2008
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Hmm I would agree (naturally) with JD there that the wood will be rotting from the inside out. I would expect the issue is not in the cambium layer being compromised but the fact that bacteria is being allowed into the heartwood in the trunk of a tree. The tree has no means of protecting itself from this other than resinous trees that would fill the entire wound with sap... I will consult a friend of mine who is the arboricultural lecturer at Myerscough.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
9,482
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McBride, BC
Harvesting birch sap for commercial purposes is a big business here. Most grocery store have one brand or another, as they do for the Canadian Maple syrup industry.
Same for the Kabarovsk Krai in the Russian Far East. It's essential to keep the trees alive.
Of course, the species here is not the species of Betula that you are familiar with.
 

John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
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I always plug the holes I bore. I size my bit to demijon corks, using one with a hole to hold the tube to my collecting bottle and then plugging with a solid cork.
Not had a tree rot from the wound yet!
 
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JonathanD

Ophiological Genius
Sep 3, 2004
12,679
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Stourton,UK
That’s the method I use as well John. Not done it for a few years, but all the trees I’ve plugged like that are still thriving. Same with the wax and wood plug method. Ideally the hole that is bored needs to be fully plugged for a tight fit all the way down. Absolutely no gaps In there. That’s where the problems begin.
 
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baggins

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Apr 20, 2005
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From my experience, i always prefer to trim a small brach back to a suitable union (as if i were pruning the tree), If done right, the pruning cut will allow the sap to be released then heal up naturally. I find that boring holes into a tree drastically increases the risk of infection, even with the introduction of plugs.
My thinking (after 25 years in Arboriculture), is that, with the increase of ambient temperature across the UK, more pathogens, that would normally be killed by cold, are now far more prevalent. The practice tapping of trees in areas of Europe and North America that have much colder winters is fine, but i feel that, here in the UK, it's not a practice that should be encouraged anymore.
I'm not saying that drilling is wrong, just that there are different methods that are probably better suited to our climate.
 
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MrEd

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I always plug the holes I bore. I size my bit to demijon corks, using one with a hole to hold the tube to my collecting bottle and then plugging with a solid cork.
Not had a tree rot from the wound yet!

me to, and I only drill a hole about 6mm across anyway, that runs plenty. I don’t think drilling an inch wide hole with an auger is necessary tbh
 

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