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I have a flowering crabapple in my yard whose bark has several large areas where it cracks and curls away from the wood underneath:

Hover over any image for description / click for full size

I don't know what variety it is (the previous owners planted it), but it's a flowering crabapple with fragrant pink flowers and inedible 2" kidney-shaped fruit. I live in Portland, Oregon, USA which is USDA zone 8a.

My questions:

  1. What is causing this damage and how can I treat it?
  2. Should I be worried about it spreading to my real apple tree which is approximately 20' away?
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That's pretty serious damage. I'm surprised there's any foliage above the damage that is alive and growing. Is this old damage or new damage? Is there any chance this is physical damage from bad staking or damage during the original planting? –  kevinsky May 21 '12 at 2:49
    
@kevinsky: other than this, the tree looks pretty healthy (I think). It started a few years ago with cracks near the base that I thought at the time were scratches from a very determined cat. The damage has spread up the trunk and gotten worse over the years and this year seems particularly bad. The original damaged area has healed a bit (I can take a photo during daylight if it would be helpful). I've been in the house for 8½ years, and the tree wasn't staked (or damaged like this) when I bought it. –  Niall C. May 21 '12 at 4:25
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AFAICT from googling, this is normal. –  Ed Staub May 23 '12 at 1:57

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I volunteered at a heritage garden (shameless plug for a place worth visiting) that had old crab apple and their bark did exfoliate or peel in little scales about two inches high by an inch wide. This is normal for mature crab apple and apple trees. What is in your pictures doesn't look like a mature tree with a trunk over eight inches in diameter and neither is the peeling all over the trunk. Given the diversity of the apple family it's hard to say whether this is normal or not. The real question is: does the tree look healthy and bear fruit?

If it does then watch and wait is my advice. If the tree lacks healthy new growth or fruit then call an arborist for an on-site opinion.

Edit: from the additional pictures I can see that there is healthy bark underneath the peeling area and that the tree does not look stressed. I am in agreement with @Ed Staub that this is normal for apple trees. Dropping bark allows the tree to drop pests and diseases in the top layer.

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It hasn't fruited well for the past couple of years, but I'm willing to blame that on the January-like springs and summers we had here. It's just finished flowering and seems to be healthy (though I do need to prune it); see the new photos I added. –  Niall C. May 23 '12 at 1:37

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