Caught in the act, a grey squirrel stripping bark from a willow tree near the footbridge into Village Green; spotted, photographed and chased away by Ian Bushell
Removing the bark exposes a tree’s layer of phloem cells, which transport the products of photosynthesis (sugars and carbohydrates) around the tree to fuel its growth. Once the phloem has been exposed, the squirrels lap up the sap.
They choose thin barked trees like willow because they are easier to strip than a thick barked tree like an oak. They forage in the flowers, leaves and fruit of an oak tree, discarding a lot more than they eat.
Bark stripping is always damaging for the tree. The main stem of this willow, which has been stripped almost bare, will probably have to be cut back. The tree will regenerate in the spring from below the cut.
Header picture by Ian Bushell