Peeling Tree Bark

Is it Something to Worry About?


During the season when trees are shedding their leaves, you may also notice peeling tree bark as well. Depending on the type of tree and other conditions surrounding the bark, this may or may not be cause for concern.

Natural Causes of Peeling Tree Bark

Just as leaves fall from certain trees, bark can fall as well. Some trees go through a natural shedding process as it grows. Layers of bark thicken and force old, dead bark away from the trunk. This may happen subtly or in more noticeable pieces, especially during the winter. You’re more likely to see the following trees naturally shedding bark in large chunks and peeling sheets:

  • Silver maple
  • Birch
  • Sycamore
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Scotch pine

If you see fresh bark covering the trunk once the old bark peels off, this is a sign of natural shedding.

Environmental Causes of Peeling Tree Bark

Bark can also peel away if a tree is injured or contracts a disease. If there’s bare wood or fungus under the peeling bark, then there’s more environmental damage done.

If the peeling bark is mostly located on the south or southwest side of the tree and you can see bare wood exposed, the problem may be sunscald or frost damage. This type of peeling has more of a negative effect on the health and lifespan of the tree. The more exposed the wood, the more likely the tree will not survive. Some believe wrapping the trunk of the tree over winter can help prevent excess shedding. If the trunk is wrapped, the cover should be removed before spring so that it doesn’t provide shelter for insects.

Hardwood trees that have peeling bark, yellowing wood, wilting leaves, and dying branches may be suffering from a fungal disease called Hypoxylon canker. A mat of fungus may also be noticeable on the wood under the peeling bark. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for this disease, and it’s best the tree is removed and the wood destroyed to prevent the spread of the fungus and prevent damage and injury from falling branches.

Next time you notice peeling tree bark, take a closer look to see if it could be natural shedding or caused by disease. If you have any other questions about possible causes, contact the tree care specialists at 610-935-2279.