Picture your house this spring: the sun is beaming, the sky is blue, and your yard is full of luscious beautiful trees sprouting new leaves. These trees are your pride and joy after carefully researching species, planting zones, growth rates, and more before you planted them in your yard. Now imagine looking around and noticing some of the bark seems to be coming off your trees. Do trees shed bark? What’s causing the trees to shed bark? These are great questions that Mr. Tree can answer. For starters, yes, there are some trees that shed bark.
There are certain species of trees that shed bark naturally as they grow, but there are also times when shedding bark can be a warning sign of disease or environmental concerns. Let’s start with some trees that shed bark naturally.
Regular Bark Shedding
While not all trees shed bark on a regular basis, there are some that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you see them shedding a layer. Birch, pine, maple, hickory, sycamore, and redbud trees are all species that shed bark normally. The most common cause of tree bark loss is growth. These trees that shed bark are growing out of their skins and need to shed a layer of bark to allow their trunks to enlarge.
This shedding process is commonly referred to as exfoliation. Trees grow by forming new layers of fibrous tissue within their cores. As they grow internally, the outer layers have to expand. During expansion, a tree sheds old bark to make way for the new. This may not be as noticeable when the tree is young and the bark is elastic enough it can withstand the growth. Older tree bark, however, isn’t as malleable and can crack and break off more noticeably. As for trees that don’t shed bark regularly, there are some signs to watch out for.
Causes for Concern
When determining if the bark loss is a cause for concern, be sure to look at the wood underneath. If there’s still bark covering the wood after the old bark peels away, the tree is likely going through a normal shedding process. If you see bare wood, cankers, fungus, or pests, these could be indicators of environmental damage or disease. Also, check the tree for curling and yellowing leaves, dead leaves, or dead twigs, which can also be signs of an underlying concern causing the bark loss.
If the bark is falling off on just one side of the tree, recall the recent weather. Have there been extremely high or low temperatures? The tree could have frost damage or sunscald. These injuries can affect the health and life span of your tree if not addressed properly. We recommend reaching out to a trained arborist if you notice any of these issues so you can discuss treatment options.
Another concern that may cause unnecessary bark shedding is cankers. Cankers look like isolated dead areas on the bark of trees. Cankers—caused by a fungus that grows between the bark and the wood of a tree—effectively kill the bark, causing it to chip and break off. There are various types of cankers in different regions and species of trees. Some common types are Thyronectria, Nectria, Cytospora, and Hypoxylon cankers. As the most effective treatment of cankers is pruning away the affected area, we recommend talking to your local tree service about steps you can take to prevent such diseases and damage from occurring.
If the bark is falling off a species of tree not known to shed its bark but there are no other signs of concern, it’s likely just signs of stress. One of the best ways to treat tree stress is to ensure adequate water, nutrients, and pruning. There are various ways you can approach helping your tree, from slow irrigation watering, laying down mulch, incorporating fertilizer into the soil, and many more. Check out some of our other articles addressing tree care to get more ideas on keeping your trees healthy.
While there’s debate on efficacy, if the patches of bark loss are relegated to one side of the tree, indicating sunscald or frost damage, you can also consider wrapping the tree trunk or painting it white. In theory, the white paint reflects sunlight, preventing sun damage. As for wrapping the tree trunk to prevent frost damage, if you want to try this measure in the winter as temperatures drop, be sure to remove the wrapping before spring. This will prevent unwanted moisture and humid environments from attracting pests and disease.
Trees that shed bark can provide a benefit to the owner. Bark chips are often used as a type of mulch. If you have trees that are shedding bark, you have the unique opportunity to collect the bark and repurpose it. This requires access to a shredder or a chipper. All you need to do is take the discarded bark, shred it twice, and then spread it in a cleared area as you would mulch.
Similarly, instead of shredding the bark twice, you can keep the bark in slightly larger chips and use it to line your flowerbed. This will assist with both moisture retention and weed reduction—like the finer bark mulch—while also adding to the overall aesthetic of your yard.
Trees that shed bark can be a bit startling at first when you aren’t used to seeing it on most trees. In some cases, the bark shedding is completely natural and even aesthetically appealing, depending on how it comes off the tree. The most important thing to remember is if you aren’t sure what’s causing the bark loss, assess the tree. Check for causes of concern and speak to your local tree service if you’re unsure and always do your best to prevent problems before they arise through overall good tree care. Mr. Tree has trained arborists available to answer any questions you might have and partner with you for the health and beauty of your trees.