The Q&A Archives: Why Japanese Maple is Losing Bark

Question: I have a small Japanese maple in my front bed and it is losing bark around the bottom of the trunk. I thought maybe it was animals, or what else could be doing this? The tree is about 4 years old and has not had very much growth. Christy Maas Fishers, IN

Answer: Are there any visible gnaw-marks typical of mice, or holes bored in the base of the trunk? It may be some kind of canker disease, too. The nursery where you purchased the tree should be able to give you some help with this. Is the bark completely gone, exposing wood? Is it "healing" at all? Trees naturally form callus over wounds. If wood is exposed and not healing, contact Gardener's Supply Company (800-863-1700), and ask for a product called Lac Balsam. It may help the wound heal. The treemay not be growing well for a number of reasons. Soil conditions, (pH, drainage, compaction); mulch piled too high up around the trunk (mulch should be at the soil line at the trunk - it can be deeper everywhere else around the tree). Hopefully the tree will come back if these are the causes of the problem.

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