When travelling around Greece, you will often see trees either the lowest part of their trunk painted white. What is the reason for this? I decided to do some research….
Firstly, it is not paint, it is a mixture of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), chalk (whiting) mixed with water, commonly known as whitewash, often used as an ant deterrent on trees.
It is supposed to help repel insects and disinfect, however it is proven that in most cases it has no effect, as it is not a fungicide or pesticide.
It has nevertheless a different use – the white colour prevents the bark from heating too much under the summer sun and this prevents its cracking, which can cause infections and rot, so whitewashing functions as a sunscreen.
Many gardeners like to whitewash their trees’ trunks for aesthetic reasons, because it provides the appearance of a well-tended garden. Another reason is thought to be that the white trunks show up in the dark when traffic headlights approach the trees, and the whitewash acts as a safety aspect.
Every Spring, the whitewash comes out in many greek villages, and everything gets spruced up. They paint their houses, walls and kerbs, as well as the tree trunks!