Why Is There Purple Paint On Trees In Pennsylvania?

Square purple mark painted on tree

Have you ever been on a peaceful stroll or a drive through the woods of Pennsylvania and noticed peculiar purple marks painted on some trees? If so, you’re not alone. Many visitors and locals alike have been puzzled by these vibrant markings.

In this post, we’ll delve into the mystery behind these purple marks, exploring their purpose and what has led to their existence. So, if you’re intrigued, keep reading to understand why these colorful markings are more than just random forest graffiti.

What is the Significance of Purple Paint on Trees

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the practice of painting purple marks on trees has a very specific purpose. This action is tied to the “Purple Paint Law,” a piece of legislation enacted to provide an alternative method for property owners to communicate that trespassing is not permitted on their lands.

The origins of this law can be traced back to House Bill 1772, passed in November of 2019, which legally recognized the use of purple paint as a lawful posting method in all but two counties – Allegheny and Philadelphia. Landowners are replacing the traditional “No Trespassing” signs that were commonly used to denote private property by marking their trees or posts with purple paint.

Purple paint on tree trunk marking no trespassing boundary of private property

The purple marks on trees in Pennsylvania signify “No Trespassing” under the Purple Paint Law. This law allows landowners to use paint instead of signs to denote private property boundaries.

The law stipulates certain requirements for these markings. The paint stripes must be at least eight inches long and one inch wide. Furthermore, the bottom of the mark must be at least three feet from the ground, but no more than five feet, making it clearly visible to anyone entering the property. Additionally, the marks must be no more than 100 feet apart.

Any failure to comply with these painted marks, signage, or verbal commands to keep out is considered defiant trespassing under Pennsylvania law.

Keystone Answers Fun Fact: The Pennsylvania Lottery was created on August 26, 1971. The first 50-cent lottery ticket was sold on March 7, 1972, with weekly drawings.

Protecting Boundaries

Pennsylvania joined multiple other states in the United States to enact a purple-paint law, joining a trend that provides a cost-effective and efficient way for property owners to mark their boundaries and protect their lands from unauthorized intrusion.

Yellow posted private property sign on tree

This practice is particularly prevalent because of hunting seasons, as landowners don’t want hunters encroaching on their property and want effective ways to discourage trespassing. This measure ensures that hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts are aware of the boundaries and respect private property rights.

Thus, if you come across a tree marked with purple paint, it’s crucial to understand that this is a clear and legally recognized sign indicating that the property is private and trespassing is not permitted.

The rationale behind the law is simple: to prevent trespassers from entering private property. Illegally entering someone’s property is a serious offense that can result in hefty fines or more significant consequences. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re permitted to enter a property, it’s better to ask for permission first or to stay on the public trail or road to avoid any potential legal action.

While Pennsylvania has only implemented this law recently, the idea has been around for decades in other states like Illinois and Missouri. The law’s premise fosters a more preventative approach to trespassing, where landowners can avoid the time-consuming process of building fences or replacing posted signs that deteriorate and go missing. Besides, the paint is a more economical option for property owners when compared to installing fences or other boundary markers.

One critical aspect of the law is the importance of paying attention to the color. Other colors are used to mark trees for harvesting or other reasons. If you see a tree painted purple, it’s best to assume that the property is private and avoid it unless you have permission. Always respect others’ property and be mindful of signs, markers, or fencing.

More Than Graffiti

The Purple Paint Law is a unique policy written to help property owners defend their rightful boundaries. It is a preventive approach to property protection that effectively discourages unauthorized individuals from entering private property. 

The law is beneficial as it offers landowners flexibility in choosing boundary markers for their properties. If you’re out in the woods and see trees marked with purple paint, remember to stay on the safe side and keep off of the property unless you are authorized to enter.

Photo of author


Pennsylvania is my home state; I reside on the original homestead settled by my forefathers in the early 1800s. Surrounded by thousands of acres of state land, I enjoy the serenity and quiet of rural Pennsylvania. I like ATVing, observing wildlife, sitting around the campfire, photography, and hiking.