Tree health care professionals share the reasons various trees shed bark.
Shedding Bark: Is It Healthy or a Sign of Trouble?
As fall is already half over, we see lots of trees dropping their leaves and going dormant for the coming winter. Should bark be among the leafy detritus in your yard? In order to determine whether or not your tree should be losing bark, you need to know what kind of tree it is, the state of the trunk, and the overall health of the tree. This article will go over the situations where it is perfectly normal to have a shedding bark and situations where it is a symptom of a serious problem.
Exfoliation or Seasonal Bark Shedding
There are several types of trees that shed bark as they grow. This is fairly common with trees that produce fruits and nuts. Like the carapace of a cicada or the skin of a snake, the bark that is too small splits and falls off, leaving a fresh protective layer of bark underneath. Certain other tree families, like the birch, have peeling bark that is considered part of their appeal.
Besides birches, there are several other trees that are known for cyclical bark shed, including silver maples, hickories, pines, redbuds, and sycamores. If these trees are shedding bark, but seem otherwise healthy, there is no cause for concern.
Weather-Related Tree Stress and Preventative Measures
Extreme temperatures, either too hot or too cold, can cause damage to trees. Frost crack, so called because it is usually associated with sudden, extremely cold temperatures, causes the bark of a tree to split, sometimes even cracking the main wood of the trunk. The same sort of cracking can happen with very hot weather as well. A healthy tree may be able to heal this damage, but it can also leave it susceptible to attack by fungi or pests.
Sunscald is another weather-related tree injury that affects tree bark. This tends to happen in late winter or early spring as the temperature begins to warm and the sunlight becomes more direct. While it sounds similar to sunburn, it is more akin to freezer burn. The tree is tricked by the warmth and light of the sun into awakening from dormancy, then when the temperature drops, the new growth is hurt by the cold. This causes blotchy brownish and brittle patches on the southern and southwestern parts of the tree trunk.
If you notice this or frost crack on your trees, there are ways to help them:
- Water: As long as the ground is not frozen, adding a little water to your tree’s roots is a good thing. This along with nutrient-rich soil helps the tree heal.
- Mulch: Organic mulch provides not only a barrier against extreme temperatures and water loss, but also acts like an extended-release vitamin, decaying and enriching the soil.
- Wrap: If frost crack is a concern, a tree blanket can help shield against the temperature extremes as well as providing a bit of protection from disease. This should be removed during spring and summer as it can become a home for pests.
- Reflect/Deflect: White, reflective paint on the trunk of trees can prevent sunscald. Also, avoiding trimming branches that would expose the trunk to direct sunlight can be beneficial.
Infection or Infestation: Bugs and Tree Disease
Another unfortunate reason for a tree losing bark is insect infestations or fungal infections. Bark loss arising from pest problems are usually accompanied by sawdust and unexpected sap drip.
Here are a few of the problem bugs that can attack your trees:
- Elm Bark Beetles
- Emerald Ash Borers
- Japanese Beetles
- Tent Caterpillars
- Gypsy Moths
- Spider Mites
Fungal infection is another common problem with trees. If bark comes off and there is fuzzy fungal growth underneath, you should schedule a consultation with an arborist. Some fungal infections can be treated, while others such as hypoxylon canker cannot be cured and tree removal is necessary to prevent further spread.
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