Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

What are the Coloured Paint Marks on Trees?

If you walk in or near woods regularly, you will have come across splotches of bright coloured paint on the tree trunks. What are they?

There are any number of reasons why someone might mark a tree, but two most of the most common ones are:

  • Trail marking. If there is an organised event through natural woodland, then marks on the trees or the ground are used to show the runners or riders which way to head. It is a modern form of the ancient art of “trail blazing”. There are very natural and harmless ways of doing this, that wash off after a couple of weeks… and some inconsiderate ones that last years.
  • Forestry work. It is very common for foresters to work in different teams with specific jobs. One individual or will has the job of deciding which trees need felling. The second team will do the felling or surgery. The simplest and fastest way of the first team communicating clearly to the second one is using coloured paint marks. The paint chosen often lasts a long time, because the assumption is that the tree will be cut down anyway. If the second team miss that tree, you might see the mark there for years to come.

How to Read a Tree – The Book