Tuesday, March 15, 2016

White Tree Trunks

This late 19th century photo shows lighthouse keeper Enoch Ellis Howard and his wife Cordelia outside the house on the lighthouse property. Notice that the bottoms of the trees have all been painted white.

On Ocracoke and other places around the world it was once common practice to paint trees, although the practice is not as widespread nowadays. In the 1950s I remember seeing the bottom 4-6 feet of my Uncle Marvin's trees (on Howard Street) all painted white. I thought it was just for decoration, but have learned that it may protect trees (especially young trees) from insect infestation and from splitting and cracking.

I am wondering if any of our readers remember seeing painted trees when they were younger.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Beatrice Wells, child evangelist, who preached at Ocracoke in the late 1930s/early 1940s. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news022116.htm.


  1. I lived in Dallas in the 90s. There were houses there that had white-painted tree trunks. I always thought it was so you could see them at night!

  2. Yes. I saw them as a child ( 5o's and 60's) in rural Arkansas.

  3. Anonymous8:15 AM

    The why answer to paint a tree trunk white with diluted latex paint can be found via a google search. But the who remembers is what I look forward to on this topic. As a child traveling on 441 to N.Carolina from S.Florida on family vacations which cut through acres and acres of Orange tree groves (Long gone my friends) I do not recall noticing this but then green algae or mold could have grown and really, a child in the back seat reading a comic book may not make a mental note of this as such.

  4. I grew up in eastern NC and well remember seeing the bottom 4 feet or so of tree trunks painted white.

  5. Anonymous5:54 PM

    drove from Cleveland to Buffalo last month..there are white painted trees all over, it's common. Nothing unusual.