Peeling Bark On Trees: What To Do For Trees That Have Peeling Bark

peeling-bark
Image by Jacob Enos

By Jackie Carroll

If you have noticed peeling tree bark on any of your trees, you may be asking yourself, “Why is bark peeling off my tree?” While this is not always a cause for concern, learning more about what causes peeling bark on trees can help shed some light on this issue so you’ll know what, if anything, should be done for it.

Why is Bark Peeling Off my Tree?

When bark peels off a tree, determine whether the tree is going through a normal shedding process or if injury or disease is causing the problem.

If you see bark covering the wood after the old bark peels away, the tree is probably undergoing a normal shedding process.

If you see bare wood or mats of fungus under the peeling bark, the tree is suffering from environmental damage or disease.

Trees That Have Peeling Bark

A tree with peeling bark doesn’t always indicate a problem. As a tree grows, the layer of bark thickens and the old, dead bark falls off. It may crumble away slowly so that you hardly notice it, but some types of trees have a more dramatic shedding process that may be alarming until you realize that it is perfectly normal.

Many trees are naturally prone to peeling and offer unique interest, especially in winter. Trees that naturally shed bark in large chunks and peeling sheets include:

  • Silver maple
  • Birch
  • Sycamore
  • Redbud
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Scotch pine

Environmental Causes Behind Tree with Peeling Bark

Peeling tree bark is sometimes due to environmental factors. When peeling bark on trees is limited to the south or southwest side of the tree and bare wood is exposed, the problem may be sunscald or frost damage. This type of shedding affects the health and lifespan of the tree, and wider areas of exposed wood make it more likely that the tree will die.

Horticulturalists disagree about whether wrapping the trunks of trees or painting with white reflective paint helps prevent sunscald. If you wrap the trunk of the tree over winter, make sure you remove the wrapping before spring so that it doesn’t provide shelter for insects. Trees with splits in the bark can live for many years if the damaged area is narrow.

Peeling Tree Bark Disease

Hardwood trees that have peeling bark may be suffering from a fungal disease called Hypoxylon canker. Peeling bark caused by this disease is accompanied by yellowing and wilting leaves and dying branches. In addition, the wood under the peeling bark is covered with a mat of fungus. There is no cure for this disease and the tree should be removed and the wood destroyed to prevent the spread of the fungus. Cut down the tree as soon as possible to prevent damage and injury from falling branches.

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