Puzzled over Peeling Bark? Why Trees Shed Their Bark

Posted on: 23 October 2018

If one or more of your trees appears to be losing its bark, don't automatically assume that this means it is dying. Your tree may simply be undergoing a natural process, one that is crucial to the tree's continued growth.

Growing Trees Shed Their Bark

Trees grow from the inside as well as from the outside. A crucial part of this growing process is the shedding of bark. As trees grow, their trunks and limbs thicken, and as a result, the old layer of bark is replaced with a new layer. This leads to shedding as the old bark peels or breaks away to be replaced with a stronger and fresher layer.

Some Trees Peel When Shedding

Not all trees shed bark in the same manner. While some trees shed bark in small patches, other trees, such as the silver maple, Japanese red pine and the sugar maple, shed large portions of bark at a time. These sections of bark often peel away from the tree and hang there until they fall off.

However, a very important difference exists between trees that shed by peeling and trees that shed bark a little more inconspicuously. Trees that peel expose their cambrium layer, the layer responsible for transporting food, for a short while. This isn't a problem for strong trees, which can quickly grow a new layer. The following trees are known for their peeling bark:

  • Birch
  • Dawn redwood
  • Japanese red pine
  • Lacebark pine
  • Paperbark maple
  • Redbud
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Silver maple

During their peeling phase, these trees—and many others—are vulnerable to attack from pests, fungi and bacteria. If these trees are injured or become sick, they take longer to replace the lost bark, putting them at greater risk. If your tree is a peeler, make sure it is in good health. If you spot pests or fungus under the bark, call in an arborist to help you assess the damage.

Examine Shedding Trees Carefully

If you notice one of your trees shedding its bark, investigate and make sure you rule out everything but Mother Nature. If you live in a hot area, your trees may also be at risk of sunscald. When the bark breaks away in just one place or is confined to one side, sunscald is likely to blame.

A Sick Tree Should be Removed

If you examine your tree and are able to see the phloem and cambium layers (the first and second layers), then your tree may have been damaged. Animals such as squirrels and rats can tear the bark from trees. As long as the inner layer of a tree is exposed, it is in danger of attracting pests or bacteria.

Bark-ringed trees that have a complete ring of bark missing will eventually die and cannot be saved. If you are worried that your tree is dying, hire an arborist to help you decide whether you should remove the tree or not, and look into tree removal services.

Bark shedding is completely natural for trees. However, unless the shedding is uniform, pests, disease or the weather could be to blame. Act quickly if disease or damage is the cause, because dead trees are dangerous. 


Critical Care Tips for Beautiful, Healthy Trees

If you want beautiful and healthy trees, you need to know how to take care of them. Hi, my name is Paige, and I have loved nurturing plants for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I had a miniature tree in my bedroom, and I took such good care of it to ensure I'd get mini lemons each year. Now, I live on a relatively large property and have a wide range of trees. I love taking care of them, and I want to share tips related to that with others. Whether you are a gardening expert or just a beginner, I hope that my posts can help you. Thanks for reading!

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