What is the cause of the scaling looking bark that wraps around the main stem...

Asked May 19, 2013, 8:54 PM EDT

What is the cause of the scaling looking bark that wraps around the main stem of my honeycrisp apple tree (see photo)? This picture is from the main stem of the tree, the scaling bark is about 3-4 inches long and wraps around the perimeter of the stem. The tree gets full sun and at least 1-3 times a month, the winds are quite strong. I applied pesticides last year after petal fall but have not begun spraying the apple trees this year (I plan to spray within the next week). I use the Bonide Fruit Tree Spray and Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray (not at the same time). I usually start with the Fruit and Tree Spray for the first couple of sprays, then the Fruit and Nut Orchard spray for the next couple of sprays. I planted the tree last year but do not recall seeing the bark issue until this spring. Other than this, the tree appears healthy, well watered, and has formed leaves and fruits in both years. There are a lot of apples forming on the stem above this scaling bark but I am afraid that the weight will cause the stem to break at the point of the scaling. Any advice?

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

The bark damage pictured appears to be deer rubbing damage, assuming it is low enough for deer to reach (otherwise it could possibly be random squirrel damage, but that is unlikely.) Deer rub their antlers on bark in the fall and often damage trees with low growing branches. There is nothing you can to to heal this wound further. It looks clean.

Because you have fruit above this damaged trunk, there must be enough cambium layer that survived to get nutrients and water up to the upper branch. We'd recommend that you thin the fruit above the damage enough so that it can support the damage. You may want to let another scaffold branch start growing to replace this one and when, the new branch has some size, cut off this branch.

Since you now know that deer may rub on this tree, use tree wrap or wire fencing to protect it next fall-winter.