eroding bark on lilacs and other small trees

Asked June 12, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT

This year we had beautiful lilacs except for one tree that while in nearly full bloom died overnight. We dug it up and it had very few roots, but it, like most of our other lilacs has a crumbling looking bark. I sprayed all the trunks with an anti-fungal but am not sure what else to do. Sandra Bennett

Clark County Washington

1 Response

Many older trees and shrubs will have normal "crumbling" or exfoliating bark. The tissue we see on the outside is not alive. It can be thick or thin depending on the type of plant. For example, grapes are notorious for this kind of bark but all normal for it to strip off.

But it is not normal for the lilac to up and die in the middle of bloom. We had some hot weather at that time which can stress a weak root system. I suspect you had a root rot developing in the last year or 2 and this plant would have died suddenly whenever the hot weather arrived this year.

Have a look here for some details:
http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/lilac-syringa-vulgaris-root-rot