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I'm seeking information about what appears to be a severe problem affecting the bark of three trees, which I think are birches. They were found in July by my husband in a state park, about ten miles from my home in Central Massachusetts, USA. It's heavily wooded, with many different types and sizes of trees.

The main purpose of the question is that my friend and I have birches in our yards which, although much younger and smaller, have begun peeling in a similar way. (We took some of ours down last year, in response to advice received in other questions on this site.)

My husband doesn't remember exactly where they were, and isn't likely to go back, so I understand if the details aren't enough to provide answers. He did take a few pictures, and I'm hoping a look at them will be enough to get at least some information, including:

  • identification and diagnosis of the problem
  • the likelihood of the same issue affecting trees in neighborhood landscapes, whether birch or not
  • direct contagion to nearby trees, again whether birch or not
  • potential preventative measures
  • recommendations and availability of treatment if caught early

If the only answer is an explanation of what's happening to those trees and nothing else, I'd still be interested, to satisfy my curiousity. Also, another friend said that, no matter what type they are, they're just going through a natural process of "shedding" the outer bark layers, and nothing is wrong at all. If that's the case, I'd like to know that too.

I apologize for the lack of quality of the pictures. He was able to get a wider perspective as well as a few close-ups of certain areas. Clicking on some will enable you to zoom in a bit.

3 trees middle tree damage a little closer close up of most severe damage higher section where bark has already peeled off

Note that I've seen some other questions about trees with missing bark. They don't look like exact duplicates, unless experts here think so!

@Kevinsky, although he didn't get a picture of the tops, he believes the trees looked healthy all the way up. From his vantage point, he saw no evidence of die-back or other damage, and only remarked that the higher sections were much smoother. Whether that means they already lost the curling/peeling layer, or it hadn't happened yet, he wasn't sure, although he thinks it was the former.

Also, I had forgotten to add a picture of mine. Upon further inspection, though, it looks different than the others, and is probably sick!

My own trees!

  • Are the trees healthy? Is there dieback at the top? – kevinsky Aug 21 '16 at 0:03
  • Whenever I saw any tree with peeled off and curled bark, I always thought the plant is getting rid of bad bark for a new one, just like a snake does. Haha! – 4-K Aug 21 '16 at 13:58
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Good news! Totally normal and healthy! No worries!!

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    Its a form of paper birch. – olantigh Aug 21 '17 at 13:36

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