Question about Maple Bark Damage

longtee81July 2, 2014

My neighbor and I purchased some trees in May 2012. I failed to listen to the great advice of the contributors on this forum (recommending I pick a smaller tree) and ended up having a 4" Accolade Elm tree installed and my neighbor made a much wiser (and overall cheaper) choice of having a 2.5" Autumn Flame Red Maple tree delivered.

My tree looked pretty bad towards the end of 2012 and for most of 2013 (small leaves that turned yellow early and dropped well before fall) and finally this year it is looking great and seems to have withstood the stress and transplant shock. Not much growth so far per the predictions of many and looking back I wish had purchased a smaller tree with a more desirable form.

Sorry to get sidetracked, but the point of this question is my neighbors maple. In 2.5 years of growth it has not really grown at all and the leaves appear to be very small (I know this variety has smaller leaves than the species). I checked it out a short while ago and noticed that much of the bark around the tree is gone. He had mentioned that a great deal of the bark was just "flaking off" and that he ended up just rubbing it off with his finger last yer. It looks like it is starting the heal back up based on the visible wound wood, and I am guessing that once it closes off the remaining open areas it will start to take off.

Has anyone seen anything like this before on a Red Maple or any tree for that matter? He had indicated that a wood pecker was doing some work on it last year, but I doubt that would cause something like this.

The tree looked good upon delivery, so it is something that happened later that year or at least it was exposed later that year.

Thanks for any info or thoughts!


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Here is one more picture. It's amazing how good the tree actually looks based on the condition of the trunk.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:01AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Frost cracking would be my guess - common in maples, esp red, silver, and freeman (red/silver hybrids).

It's healing it...and might pull through fine. Hard to say without seeing how the crown looks.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:21AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Tree was telephone poled (planted too deep) from the second picture. Improper watering could have contributed as well. Probable lead to other issues as well. As hair said, it may pull through, may not. What time of year was it planted? Ken says spring is best in your region, while fall is best in my region (for most species).

Not much to do now but water when dry, and maybe fertilize some to encourage a quicker increase in caliper so that the wound closes quicker.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 1:41PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Good catch on the lack of root flare, Ark - I was so fiazted on the wound issue I didn't look down.

You could try to dig out the root flare as well.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 1:44PM
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Thanks for the info, it does appear to be frost crack. It was planted in early may shortly after leafing out. Spring 2012 was incredibly hot (in the 90's several days). The tree company set the trees in but did not actually backfill the dirt, but I would agree that there is no visible root flare. I think the rootball was up oretty high, so it may be possible to remove some and expose the root flare. My neighbor watered it a lot (maybe too much) and had volcano mulched it .... u can see in the picture where the mulch was previously. .. for the first yr.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 2:09PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

with that weed free.. well fertilized lawn.. there is NO NEED FOR FERT ... EVER.... if the tree has already spread roots under that lawn.. it will get what it needs.. and more ....

i would NOT hold out a lot of hope for this tree... but i would be pleasantly surprised if it recovered ...

there is something about the dry interior wood that really bothers me.. like that giant borer hole ... even if it healed over in the years to come.. i wouldnt be surprised.. if at some point down the years.. it didnt fail right at that spot... in a wind storm ...

in case i wasnt clear... i would enjoy watching the recovery process.. but i would NOT be surprised if it didnt fail.. eventually ...

have you tried discussing such with the seller/installer ... this damage could easily have been pre-exisiting at delivery ... but near impossible to prove ... whatever remedy might be available.. might be based on the sellers dignity ...

one option.. if he is waffling.. is to ask if he would replace it with a tree half the size ... much cheaper for him ... and it will outgrow this one in a few years...

huge.. large transplants... peeps are thinking instant gratification... when in reality ... a smaller tree takes the stress easier... plants easier.. and gets growing to specs.. so much faster.. that it really isnt worth the large cost... within 5 years ...

ken in adrian mi ...

ps: no planting in july/august .... in MI ... IMHO ....

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 4:20PM
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IanW Zone 5 Ont. Can.

Previous comment: " there is NO NEED FOR FERT ... EVER"

I disagree......Trees that are planted in clay or sandy soils especially in new subdivisions need fertilizers....
Soil tests should be taken to establish the tree's need....however trees, shrubs etc. will benefit from fertilizers or compost especially if the soil is sandy, since the nutrients are soon washed out......

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:11AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

Actually Ken, in this case, even if the soil has adequate nutrients, a nitrogen push will increase calipering of the trunk, which would result in closing the wound quicker. So unless the current soil is very high fertility (unlikely), then I would fertilize.

Otherwise, as for the wound itself, I noticed the borer hole as well, and true, it will weaken the trunk. However if the tree survives, by the time it's 5-6" caliper, it will be insignificant. The wound is certainly not good, but I have seen several red maples completely recover from much worse than this. However, I will note that my growing season is significantly longer, so that may have an impact on recover.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 10:08AM
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