Large Areas Of Bark Peeling Off Of Your Tree Means It's Time To Call An Arborist: Here's What Can Cause It
It's natural for all trees to shed their bark periodically as the new growth ring comes in. This process is why the trunk of your tree will always be surrounded by small, dried-out bark chips. Some types of trees, such as the sycamore tree and the birch tree, will shed their bark in large areas. However, for most trees, a large section of missing bark is a very bad sign for the health of your tree. There are a few reasons why bark may be peeling off in a large area; you will want to contact a Certified Arborist to inspect your tree as quickly as possible to prevent any further damage from occurring to your tree.
An Early Winter Can Damage Your Tree's Cambium
The most common cause of large sections of bark peeling off of a tree is that the tree has experienced a drastic, sudden change in temperature. Because trees grow so slowly, this damage may have occurred a few years ago and is only now showing.
Frost damage is almost nonexistent in trees as long as they have managed to go fully dormant for the winter; this dormancy, which is what causes all of the leaves of the tree to fall off, is what protects the tree from extremely low temperatures during the winter. If a severe cold front comes through in mid-fall, your tree may have been exposed to frost too early in the year. Frost damages trees by freezing water in the cambium, which is the layer just underneath the bark responsible for circulating nutrients throughout the tree. The cambium is also responsible for new bark growth. The expansion of the frozen water destroys the cell walls of the cambium, which kills that section of the tree. With no new bark growth, the old bark will fall off in large patches with nothing to replace it. That's what causes the large sections of peeling bark.
Fungus Can Dry Out Bark And Cause It To Detach From The Trunk
Fungus typically affects trees that are already under some form of environmental stress; your tree may not be getting enough sunlight or water, or it may not be getting the minerals that it needs from the soil. Fungus takes up residence on your tree's trunk and begins to absorb moisture from the bark. It causes bark to fall off in large chunks and also prevents any new bark from forming, which causes your tree's bark to peel off in large areas.
Pests May Be Dining On Your Tree's Trunk
Some pests that affect trees eat bark exclusively. However, these types of pests generally do not cause large areas of bark to fall off on their own, as they simply do not eat enough to cause that problem. More serious pest infestations, such as borers, can burrow into the interior of your tree and damage the cambium. Much like when the cambium is damaged by frost, this will cause bark to be deprived of nutrients and die off.
In all cases, a large area of bark peeling off of your tree is a sign of a larger problem that must be attended to. The typical treatment is to remove any environmental stresses that are currently affecting your tree and give it time to heal; fungus will be cut away, pests will be killed, and any damaged areas will be carefully removed from the trunk. A high-mineral fertilizer may be added to the area around the tree to speed healing. In order to determine if your tree is still salvageable and to come up with a plan to treat it, you will want to contact a Certified Arborist to inspect your tree as soon as possible.