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

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Thursday - August 10, 2006

From: Tinley Park, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Bark damage to Tulip Tree
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a tulip tree planted. It is about 9-10 years old. Two years ago the tree looked as though the trunk was cracked. Maybe hit by lightning after a storm. This year the bark on the side of tree that was cracked has peeled off to bare wood. The tree flowered and is very green. Will the tree survive? Does it maybe have a disease? Is there anything I can do to help the trunk become healthy again?

ANSWER:

There is a good possibility that your tree will survive and live to a ripe old age. It is not uncommon for trees to sustain damage to their trunks which results in loss of bark. In most cases the damage done is permanent and a visible scar remains on the side of the tree throughout its life. If the damage is slight the wound sometimes grows over and the dead wood beneath is hidden.

Whether or not your tree survives depends on the severity of the wound and how successful the tree is in creating healthy scar tissue around the wound. Open wounds on the side of trees sometimes become entry points for pathogenic diseases and damaging insects. Very often the negative consequences do not develop for years or even decades.

One serious consideration though, is the possibility of the tree falling and causing harm to people, homes or other property. Trees with damaged trunks will sometimes break during windstorms and fall in the direction of the trunk damage. If your tree's trunk is scarred on the side facing your home and is near enough to cause damage if it falls, you might want to consider having the tree removed. If it's in a location where it is unlikely to damage anything by falling, you have little to worry about.

 

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