What should be done with dogwood with splitting bark?

Asked December 1, 2013, 10:20 PM EST

Hello Extension Team - You were recommended by a team lead with Casey Trees. Attached is a photo of a Dogwood I've had in the yard for two years. I only noticed the cracks in the trunk two weeks ago. It's very much a full sun tree. The soil has a PH of 7 and drains well. I've never used pesticides or fertilizers. Any analysis you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Splitting bark, especially on a dogwood, can be the result of several factors; mechanical damage, weather fluctuations, or insect invasion. It would be appropriate for you to remove a small portion of the bark and inspect for entry/exit holes indicative of boring insects. Dogwoods are highly susceptible to attack by boring insects and once they have entered the tree, there is no effective control available.

The wound appears to be a year old or more since there is some corky/callous tissue surrounding the wound. This is indicative of the tree being able to isolate the wounded area and seal it off from the living/healthy portion of the vascular system. When a tree is completely girdled by a wound, the vascular system is totally compromised and the tree will die. If the wound only extends around 40% of the circumference the tree may continue to live for many years, but the wound will always be there.

Your best option at the moment is to wait until spring and observe how the tree is able to re-foliate. If the majority of the canopy looks healthy, you may be able to save the tree. Your best cultural activity is to provide the tree with supplemental irrigation during droughty periods.