I had 5 trees in the strip between my sidewalk and the street.

Last year the bark on one of them started to peel (and was exasperated by some kids physically peeling it off). In the fall, it snapped and fell over about 2 feet above the ground during a wind storm.

Now the other four are also peeling.

The odd thing is that for all of them it's only happening on the west facing side (that faces the street). The east side seems perfectly fine.

I believe they are all some sort of maple trees. This doesn't seem to be healthy at all. Is there a way to save these trees? Any idea what might be causing this?

Trees are located in Utah, Zone 7a.

Trunk of tree 1 Trunk of tree 1

Base of tree 1 Base of tree 1

Trunk of tree 2 Trunk of tree 2

Trunk of tree 2 Trunk of tree 2

Trunk of tree 3 Trunk of tree 3

Trunk of tree 4 Trunk of tree 4

Base of tree 4 Base of tree 4

East side of tree 3 East side of tree 3

East side of tree 1 East side of tree 1

Full view of trees Full view of trees

Full view of trees from across the street Full view of trees from across the street

Replacement tree Replacement tree

  • 1
    what are your winter temperatures like? Do you have sunny but cold winters with snow and ice?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 21:14
  • We do have a good amount of snow and ice. I wouldn't really call our winters sunny, though. Average high is around 40 and average low is in the low 20s. We get about 14 inches of snow each month on average. Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 21:19
  • 2
    Best guess: Snowplow damage (the "wing" coming over the curb, and/or chunks of ice rolling off the plow without the plow itself even making contact) possibly exacerbated by road salt use. The side of the street is a harsh place for trees.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Apr 2, 2017 at 21:39
  • Strong winds are also not a friend to many species of maple. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 14:26
  • Am I not staring at an emerald ash borer in the first picture?
    – Kim
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 0:11

4 Answers 4


What is happening isn't just ONE thing. The heat from the asphalt is reflecting on your trees causing the bark to thaw prematurely. Usually ugly but not a deal breaker. The thawed portion of the trunk might have killed the vascular system beneath the bark but not the entire circumference.

Your trees are surrounded by grass right up to the bark. This is a big deal to the health of your trees. Look at the first picture where you are able to see the extent of water being held to the bottom of your tree. This doesn't cause death right away but it allows bacteria to begin compromising the bark and vascular system...this does kill a tree and causes them to become weakened and susceptible to wind damage and then insect damage. And kids are just attracted to peeling bark. They aren't doing any damage past what has already happened.

The vascular system just below the bark is the critical part to your entire tree. A tree can survive just fine when only a part of the vascular system is compromised (scratch the surface below the bark and you will see green...this is the top of the vascular system and it is only less than an eighth of an inch thick).

Remove that grass at least 2' radius from the trunk, get rid of all mulch touching the bark as well. Just the roots should be below the surface and pull soil, mulch, rock, grass away from the bark that should be above the surface to be kept dry by wind, air, and the bark's own chemistry. You might just get rid of ALL grass around those trees. Mowing and trimming are another danger to the bark of your trees. Get rid of any staking. Staking only makes the trunk and root support systems weaker. Right now you want movement by the wind which causes your trunks and roots to get larger and stronger. Have you ever had a limb of your own in a cast for a few months? That is what happens when a tree is staked.

Please post a picture of the entire group of trees. What have you added, such as fertilizer. How do you water? Who planted these trees, the HOA? Who mows and trims the grass around these trees. Have you had an arborist diagnose these? 5 trees is an investment and if one has broken off this is a good wake up call to save the others. How about pruning?

To alleviate the difference in temperature painting the bark on the street side or south side in WHITE will mitigate the difference in temperature. They do this in orchards...the only time trunks are ever messed with. I'd wait until you hire an arborist (the HOA if involved should pay for this) and/or send us pictures of the entire tree (s).

  • Thanks. I added some photos to show the full trees and the area they are in. I'm in the middle of pulling the grass back from the trees and replacing with mulch. That's why the one trunk looks wet - I had pulled the grass of it within the last hour. The only fertilizer that's been added was a weed and feed meant more for the grass. The trees were planted by the city, who also replaced the one that fell over, but I'm the one that maintains the area. I haven't had anyone else look at them yet, as I mostly noticed this today while I was working in the area. None of the trees have been staked. Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 1:19
  • There are sprinklers that water the whole area. I was actually wondering if the city (I know I didn't do it) painted the trunks white at some point. You can especially notice it in "Base of Tree 1" where it looks like it's been painted. Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 1:22
  • Whoa, sure can see...but white paint should be 3' or more higher and only on that side which looks like the south facing side...do ALL those trees the same way with the little circle. I can see the effect of moisture on the one you just cleaned up! Good work, Ryan. My goodness! If you just do what you did with this one tree you should be able to keep that grass which looks very healthy. Make sure to keep it mowed on high. Talk to your HOA about painting the rest of them and all the way up at least 3 feet. The sun is what is warming this side of your trees and well, make HOA do their job
    – stormy
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 1:37
  • It looks like there's an emerald colored beetle in the hole in the middle of the trunk in the first photo.
    – That Idiot
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 11:31

This is physical damage. As the knowledgeable Ecnerwal mentions something hard hitting the trunk of the tree would do this. Trees compartmentalise damage so the actual incident could have occurred a number of years ago. The bark probably died within a year and was just literally hanging on. Kids peeling the bark were just exposing the damage of some time ago.

Sadly this kind of damage can also happen during transport. Inadequate equipment or just plain sloppiness when it was moved to the site and planted are a possibility.

As long as least half the bark is continuous from ground to the top the tree will survive. With only half a circulatory system you would expect to see more water stress in dry times and weak growth above the damaged area.

Stormy mentions painting the trunk to prevent sun scald but this is normally done on thin barked trees like magnolia or young trees. Check with the local arborist or city resources to see if this is an issue in your area.


Could be a leopard moth (Zeuzera pyrina) infection, if this happens again on the birch- it could be this? life cycle takes two years. The caterpillars eat straight into the bark killing the young trees- no cure.


Sure looks like canker disease to me.

' CANKER, plant disease, caused by numerous species of fungi and bacteria, that occurs primarily on woody species. Symptoms include round-to-irregular sunken, swollen, flattened, cracked, discoloured, or dead areas on the stems (canes), twigs, limbs, or trunk. Cankers may enlarge and girdle a twig or branch, killing the foliage beyond it. They are most common on plants weakened by cold or drought stresses, insect injury, nutritional imbalances, nematodes, or root rot. '

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