graffiti on a tree

Graffiti on Trees

by / 18 Comments / 1688 View / February 17, 2009


I grew up in the inner city where graffiti was as common as billboards on Sunset Boulevard.

Graffiti was plastered on buildings, bus stops, freeway signs, bridges, churches, government buildings- the more outrageous the location, the greater pride the "tagger" experienced.


Gang members marked their "turf" (a misappropriated horticultural word) with their gang names and personal nicknames to proclaim their "ownership" and dominance over a neighborhood.

So when you see rampant graffiti in an area, consider yourself warned: you are standing on hostile ground.


When I was a teen, my family moved to a "graffiti-free" neighborhood in the suburbs.

No gangs, no graffiti.

In fact, if anyone even tried to "tag" a wall in this neighborhood,  the graffiti was removed the very next day! 


I felt safer living in the tree-lined suburbs of the Valley, north of Los Angeles.

The concrete jungle was behind me and I embraced greener pastures in a neighborhood where pride of ownership was expressed in well maintained yards and "deviant art" from spray cans was not tolerated.  



So much for waxing nostalgic about my neighborhood…

There was a tree that caught my eye at the local shopping center the other day.

No, I wasn't captivated by the tree's sculptural form or graceful foliage.

There was nothing about the tree itself that impressed me but there was something about it that seemed familiar.

I got in my car and drove towards it.

As I got closer to the tree , I saw strange blue markings on the trunk.





My heart sank when I realized  that the tree had been defaced with graffiti.

It pissed me off to see this tree marked and branded by a thoughtless punk!


Did this vandal not understand that a tree, unlike a concrete wall or billboard, can not be stripped and painted over?


A tree is a living organism and will not be "owned" by an uncaring thug who tattoos his name upon it's skin.




18 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing. Interesting behaviour.

  2. You’ll be interested to know that so called self proclaimed landscaper/designer vandalized beautiful aspen trees on her ex boyfriend’s property. She had to leave her mark instead of a graceful exit… She later returned to his property to deface it of its Christmas wreaths and decorations – she earned herself a 2nd DV conviction.

  3. There is no other way to describe this ignorant, mindless and downright disrespectful behaviour than a scum produced blight on Natures bounty. These idiots should try making a contribution to society and proving themselves better than the parents who have failed to raise them.

  4. Hi Arne,
    That ivy idea is a good one. I like Ficus repens- it clings to the walls and will probably stop a “tagger” from doing much harm to a wall. Yes, funny, trains have no hope.

  5. I always recommend grafitti plagued sites to plant some Ivy or other climbing or clinging vegetation the “artists” do not use covered surfaces and the ivy can also cover up tags like the one shown on your picture, but metro trains are maybe not so easy to cover with ivy.. Just read an article in the paper today decrying the problem as growing in al cities here in DK.

  6. Good points Genevieve. I love your design work by the way. Check out her website guys!

  7. This graffiti tagger is specifically the kind of person that should motivate all of us as designers.

    Obviously this young/ old/ ignorant/ rebellious/ disconnected “artist” DOESN’T have the reverence for- or connection to- nature that moves each of us. We as gardeners and designers need to work harder to share our affinity with the unfortunate.

    We shouldn’t only practice for financially supported entites or wealthy private clients. Let’s start community gardens; bring food cultivation to lower income/inner city schools; let’s initiate business-sponsored public gardens in under-privileged areas.

    And let’s also temper our reactions. I used to rail at carvings in tree bark: OMG, inroads for fungi/pests/bacteria!! Coming off the mountain a few weeks ago, I photographed old carvings in an aspen forest. New, they were probably quite vulgar. But add time and natural processes, these nubian, busty, gnarled goddesses became…beautiful. Were they carved by a horny hunter pervert- or an artist ahead of its time?

    I am the queen of reaction. Often how we choose to react says as much about us as the object/action under the lens. That graffiti IS actually an offense. But the poor lost soul that lives behind it…

    I love your efforts and your blog, Bovshow; thank you!

  8. I don’t mind artistic graffiti (not just tags) on big empty city walls, but to do this to a tree is just wrong. And impossible to clean off as well. Double bad.

  9. There is something particularly offensive in a lout defacing a tree isn’t there, but what goes around comes around – there’s always poison ivy, see here:


  10. I also feel sick when I see this done to trees. Not far from where we live here in Auckland, New Zealand a bush reserve with hundred year old plus trees had most of them sprayed with red paint. Right fully there was a uproar amongst the community. Sadly people who do this have no respect for anyone or anything. I imagine when they get old the memory of doing such things will haunt them. I don’t know if it works but I heard that smearing the affected areas with yogurt helps as fungi grows and disguises the damage. Not sure however?

  11. Hello to all my friends and visitors. Thanks for your comments. I see this touched a nerve in many of you as we all share a love of nature in common.

    It is a shame that so many young people (I’m assuming the graffiti vandal was not an older person) do not have respect or appreciation for nature. Let’s do something about that in our communities.
    Callie suggested introducing a city ordinance. I’ll have to check into that.
    Thanks all.

  12. Sad story. Have you thought of introducing a city ordinance?

  13. Thanks for sharing information from your personal story, Shirley. Such graffiti speaks volumes (and all of it bad) — which is unfortunate, because I think that is, in part, what the perpetrators want.

    In my area, the most common form of tree defacement is the carving of initials into beech tree bark.

  14. A thought provoking post, thank you.

    I’m doing an occasional series of posts about public planting this year and you’ve raised an issue which I’ve yet to see here in the UK. I’ve bookmarked your post for future reference, because I’ve been mulling over public planting and vandalism (destroying rather than defacing) for a post in my series.

  15. Shirley, anyone who would do that wouldn’t know the difference between a tree and a cement wall anyway. It’s a beautiful tree, and I hope the graffiti can be cleaned off without damaging the tree.

  16. I saw the same thing in the LA Zoo last year. The bamboo had been carved into for graffiti. Those shoots will have someones tag on them virtually forever. This is a result of people never being exposed to nature and its wonders.

  17. Shirly, you sometimes see trees with initials scratched into the bark – really deep. I don’t think this is very common now but the old trees never really grow the marks out. It is so sad.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  18. I’ve never sen that before…even in NYC where we have graffiti to spare! I guess our subway cars give people enough space to deface. But it doesn’t just happen in the cities. Last month I was hiking outside Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and I actually saw some hikers peel bark off an aspen tree! Obviously I was wrong to assume that if you were out there hiking you must have some appreciation/understanding of nature. My husband and I chastised them and they slunk away. But the damage was done.

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