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What Does Red Paint on Trees Mean?

A tree has a red line painted on the bark.
Irina Shatilova/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever been hiking in the woods or walking through your neighborhood and noticed a dash or dot of red paint on a few trees? These occasional paint marks aren’t an effort of vandalism, and they aren’t there by accident.

Paint spots on trees are actually codes and messages used by forestry workers. Specific colors and designs can tell workers which trees to cut down and which ones to protect. Things get a little stricter when it comes to red paint on trees.

Red paint on trees typically shows the boundary of United States Forest Service land.

However, don’t make assumptions if you see a tree painted red in your city or nearby forest. Markings aren’t necessarily universal. Forestry workers tend to use bright colors (like red, orange, purple, and yellow) on trees because they’re easily visible.

You might also see some trees painted white, but unless there’s a specific symbol involved, that may just be to protect the tree from getting scalded by the sun.

If you see a tree with red paint in your neighborhood, it’s a good rule of thumb not to go past that tree line. If you do, you could be leaving USFS land and entering into someone’s private property.

If you’re interested in learning more about different paint colors and markings on trees in your area, the best thing to do is contact the U.S. Forest Service or your town’s forestry department. They’ll be able to give you more information about what each marking and color means, so you’ll be able to stay away from boundary lines and trees that are about to be cut.

The next time you’re on a hike or exploring a new forested neighborhood, be on the lookout for paint colors on trees.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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