attack of the bark peelers

Asked June 26, 2013, 12:21 PM EDT

i'm finding strips of bark at the bases of maple trees in my woodlot that appear to be falling from the top of the tree. the strips are about 1x6 inches. what is doing this, and is it harmful to tree growth?

Eaton County Michigan

1 Response

Strips of bark coming off can be from many causes-- animal damage(squirrels are known to strip bark in the size you noted), insect damage, lightning strike, frost cracks, disease; or there are some trees (Paperbark Maple and Silver Maple are two) that naturally peel. Young trees as they grow will naturally lose some outer bark. From your brief description, these strips could be from squirrels' work.

Here is some detail on how trees deal with loss of bark: Splitting Bark article, from

"When a split occurs on a tree, what should you do? In recent years quite a bit of research as been done on closure of tree wounds. These investigations have indicated that tree wound paints are of little value in helping a tree to callus over. For this reason, do not paint or try to seal a split with paint or tar. .... A tree growing with good vigor usually calluses over quickest. Encourage vigor in the tree with yearly spring fertilizer applications and be sure to provide adequate irrigation in hot, dry weather. Bark splits will often close over completely, leaving a slight ridge in the trunk where callus tissue has been produced." (end of article extract)

The above indicates that a tree will callous over a 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide open area. Your tree can do so if it is otherwise healthy and has the proper amount of water and nutrients. Continue to monitor your trees. If they otherwise appear healthy, they are callusing over on their own.

There is no treatment for frost cracks. For animal damage all you can do is trap and remove, or place baffles around trees to keep animals from climbing. In a forested area this isn't going to be effective. For disease, insects or lightning strikes an arborist needs to be consulted. If the trees are of high value to your landscape, you can consult a certified arborist who can check for disease and insect issues. Find an arborist by going to then click on the "Find a Tree Care Service" tab.

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