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The bark is falling off my tree. Is the tree dead? Diseased? Will I have to have it removed? Please see the pics:

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tree trunk bark missing from tree bark on ground trunk with bark missing tree

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ignore the trunk for a moment. Do any of the branches have leaves? Find a nearby tree of the same type and compare leaf amounts. From your pictures the tree appears leafless, and it shouldn't be. That's far more a symptom than bark falling off is. –  Kate Gregory Feb 5 '13 at 18:34
    
@Kate Gregory: Thanks so much for the comment. Unfortunately, I don't have another tree that's similar to this one. The needles all appear to be brown and there aren't many. There are still some cones. I don't know what kind of tree it is. I live in Maryland, if that helps. –  Laxmidi Feb 6 '13 at 17:05
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2 Answers 2

Most of this looks to be old damage and I suspect it is caused by a porcupine due to:

  • irregular areas chewed off
  • damaged areas are dry with no signs of fungal/viral infection
  • no signs of holes or sawdust indicating borers or beetles
  • some damage occurs well above areas that deer or mice will feed on

Any tree would be stressed from this amount of damage and this seems to be born out by the thinning leaf canopy. As Kate Gregory recommends compare the amount of foliage to similar trees in the area to establish what is healthy.

If it is porcupines one control method is:

...is to place a skirting of galvanized metal or tin around the base of the tree. The metal reaches all the way around the tree trunk and is tall enough that the porcupines can't easily reach above it.

from here. You might be able to see similar damage on other trees in the area.

It is also possible that the cause is something else but we would need to know more about what kind of tree and where it is growing.

EDIT: current thinking in tree care in regards to wounds is to leave them alone and let the tree utilize it's natural defense mechanisms to close off the wound. Tar, shellac and numerous other "ideas" people have used do not appear to help the tree and could harm it by providing an area that is sealed where existing fungus/virus/bugs can live in comfort.

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Thank you for the info. I hadn't considered that a porcupine could've caused the damage... Other than preventing future damage, is there anything that I can treat the trunk with? ...I live in Maryland... I'm not sure what kind of tree it is... I have a few pine trees and they all have green needles. –  Laxmidi Feb 6 '13 at 17:12
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Don't seal wounds in trees. It will "scab over" naturally. This is one case where nature provides the best defense against infections and further damage. There are many products to paint over wounds, but the current consensus seems to be that these products actually cause more harm than using nothing at all. –  Robert Cartaino Feb 7 '13 at 17:00
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up vote 0 down vote accepted

I had a tree service come out. They said that it's dead and is infested with pine bark beetles.

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