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What would cause the bark to fall off a tree like this? See the squiggly markings on the trunk?

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  • This tree is alive and healthy?
    – Jim Young
    May 7 '16 at 2:09
  • Something killed the cambium and phloem layers and the bark is falling off. It's dead or marginally alive due to an increasingly narrowing patch of those layers on the other side. May 7 '16 at 3:49
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Death.

The tree has been beetled to death, or beetles have come and munched on it after it died.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bark_beetle

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  • 1
    If it is an ash tree then it is likely the emerald ash borer
    – kevinskio
    May 7 '16 at 2:41

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