Significant Bark Damage - Maple Tree

Asked September 16, 2019, 4:48 PM EDT

My son and a friend had a terrible idea one day on Sunday, August 18, to chop down a tree in our backyard with a plastic axe. I discovered what they were up at about the time when they had torn off a significant portion of the bark on one side of the tree (pictures attached). My husband, son, and I taped the bark back on the next morning after I "googled" how to save a tree. I read that we were supposed to put the bark back on in the same direction to save the phloem so that is what we tried to do. The tree is a maple variety and is about 25 feet tall and has been here since we moved in almost 11 years ago. I'm so worried about this tree so I have a few questions now that it's a month later:
1. Does it look like this tree will survive?
2. Are we doing the right thing to treat the damage? (Taped bark on in place and wrapped in burlap).
3. The leaves started turning red almost immediately after the damage which in my non-expert opinion was a shock-like reaction to the damage. The picture shows the red leaves are on the same side as the damage. Does this seem like a logical explanation or should I be worried? We have a 2nd tree just like this one and it has not started to turn fall colors yet.
4. As part of the treatment, my husband, son and I also wrapped the base completely in burlap which is removed for pictures. Is that something we should keep on?
5. How should I protect the tree during the cold fall and winter months to give it a chance to survive?

Thank you in advance, I really appreciate any help I can get.

Sarah Lindemann

Cass County North Dakota

1 Response

Good afternoon,

Wow, that's quite the dilemma you have. I'll give you what feedback I can, but there's no way I can answer question #1 - will the tree survive? I can't tell, either way. Nevertheless, you're taking the right steps.

Yes, replacing the bark, in the right place/direction is the appropriate action to take. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I've usually seen where it's held in place with small nails, though, not tape. If the bark does take, and begins to re-graft back to the remaining bark, be careful that the tape doesn't start to girdle the tree. If this tape breaks down in the sun/wind/environment over the course of the next one or two years, that's great. If it remains tight on the tree for much longer than that, then it should probably be removed.

The burlap may-or-may-not help the tree. If the bark is exposed on the S or SW side, then shading/protecting that side during winter is appropriate. If this side is facing north, then the burlap won't do much for the tree.

Yes, the leaves turned red on this side of the tree, probably because of the damage.

The only other things I would recommend at this point are (1) let the tree develop its normal cold-hardiness for the winter. Don't do anything right now that would keep it growing late into the fall. That is, don't fertilize it or water it at this point. We've had plenty of moisture and right now the tree needs to slow down its growth and prepare for winter.

Otherwise, you're on the right track. Best wishes with your tree.