The Q&A Archives: Damage To Tree, Unknown Cause.

Question: We have a Red October Glory Maple tree that has a diameter of 4 inches. We have had it for just under 5 years. I don't know how old it was when we bought it. We bought three of them, but only one has damage that runs a good portion of the tree. It has "worm" holes and has lost the bark on one side of the tree. The wood is a light grey. We saw ants on it last year. Big and black, 3/8" long. We believe this will be the third summer of damage. The area of damage runs about a third of the total height of the tree. It at first looked as if there was just some spliting occurring, but as the summer went it was actually kinda hollowing out. The damage looks "sunk-in" and only on the south east side of the tree. Can you tell us what did the damage? The tree had black tips before all of the happened. We thought it was from drought and high heat. One of the other trees had only a few black tips, and the other had none. Is there anything we can do to fix the damage or prevent it from going any further? Thank you. Any help would be appreciated.

Answer: Based on your description it sounds like the bark damage is due originally to the bark thawing and then refreezing in the winter on sunny days. This problem is fairly common on maples and can be avoided by using a winter tree wrap on young trees with softer bark. Once this happens, there isn't much you can do. Sometimes the tree can heal itself, but in other cases the damage serves as an entry point for insect and disease problems, which it sounds like may be happening now. The black tips might be a result of drought damage causing some winterkill, but might also be the sign of the early stages of disease. You might want to consult with a professionally trained arborist or your county extension (252-5051) as to the prognosis for the tree and if you need to do anything to keep the other two trees healthy.

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