Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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


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?


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.


More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Plant mistakes from Cedar Park, TX
April 09, 2014 - At our "Wilts End" in Cedar Park, TX. and are looking for a tall shrub/tree that will hide a 6-ft tall concrete wall and muffle the noise from a busy street. The wall forms a very wide-angled V shap...
view the full question and answer

Failure of TX bluebonnets to thrive
May 28, 2015 - We have had extraordinary luck with bluebonnets growing in our driveway of decomposed granite--until last year and this year. The bluebonnets seem to be drying up and wilting away. The ones in other a...
view the full question and answer

Will damage to live oak root make it more susceptible to oak wilt
December 24, 2012 - Hi. I knicked the root of a live oak when digging. Will this hurt the tree and make it more succeptible to wilt? Is there something I can use to protect the exposed part of the root and make it les...
view the full question and answer

Bugbane Leaf Blotch
January 24, 2013 - My bugbanes (Cimicifuga/Actaea) seem to suffer from black blotches on the leaves in the summer. This happens even when they have adequate moisture. I also see it on the ones growing wild. Is this a fu...
view the full question and answer

Weeping Willow Problem in Texas
September 04, 2014 - Our weeping willow's leaves are turning yellow and falling off. We are also seeing some brown, gnarly looking pods on some of the stems can you tell us what's happening?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.