En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - December 27, 2011

From: Eureka Springs, AR
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Cause of trees losing bark in Arkansas
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I live in very rural Arkansas and we did have extreme heat this past summer and since then I have noticed several trees in the woods that have lost huge strips of their bark and I was wondering if it was because of the heat?


There are several reasons that a tree can lose its bark.  These include mechanical trauma and environmental stress that can weaken the tree's resistance to infestations by insects, bacteria and fungi.   In urban/suburban settings it is usually physical trauma (e.g., scraping the tree trunk with the lawnmower or striking it with the string of a weedeater) that results in bark missing from trees.  Physical trauma caused by deer rubbing their antlers on trees can happen both in urban/suburban settings and in the wild.  Some of the missing bark you see in the woods is probably due to deer rubbing their antlers to remove the velvet and to establish their territory and attract mates. Other animals (squirrels and other rodents) will also eat tree bark.  Additionally, the extreme heat combined with drought conditions certainly have had an adverse effect on the health of all vegetation.   The NOAA Little Rock website shows your county (Carroll County) in northwest Arkansas as abnormally dry in 2011, but not in extreme drought.  In Texas, not only did we experience extreme heat but also extreme drought.  Your temperatures were certainly high, but again not as high an average as those here in Central Texas. It is reported that 10% of the trees in Texas have died because of the extreme drought and heat. 

So, in answer to your question, if your area has a high deer population, that could explain at least part of the loss of tree bark.  There is no doubt, however, that the extreme heat and dry conditions have stressed the trees all over the southwest this summer causing disease and death.

Here is information (Trees: Damage) about problems with trees and expected outcomes from North Carolina State University and information (Drought, Wildfire and Forest Health) from the Texas Forest Service. 


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Black leaves and dying kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
December 16, 2007 - My kinnikinnick has developed dark leaf spots and, in some cases the entire leaf has turned black or entire plants have turned black and died off. I'm worried about leaf spot, root rot and leaf gall...
view the full question and answer

Wilting American Smoke Tree in Texas
April 21, 2013 - I planted a young American smoke tree last fall (mid-November) and it put out a good show of tentative new leaves this spring. Then to keep the tree form I clipped some little shrubby start ups at the...
view the full question and answer

Decline in willow tree in West Virginia
June 15, 2008 - I planted a willow tree about three years ago and it was progressing just beautifully with full leaves this spring in a nice green color. We staked it back about three weeks so it would grow straight...
view the full question and answer

Mexican oak and red oak not looking healthy
August 02, 2014 - I purchased a Mexican oak tree and I believe a red oak tree from your center about 1 year ago. Recently I've noticed that they don't look as healthy as they have been, and I just looked at the leave...
view the full question and answer

Problems with mountain laurel from Sunrise Beach TX
August 29, 2012 - In Llano Co., TX near lake LBJ, crushed granite type soil - my 4 - 5 year old TX Mtn. Laurels (2), about the size of large wheel barrows, are turning very pale, dropping leaves and on 1 the seed pods ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center