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I just noticed a tree bark issue on my Chinese Pistache. Is this no harm damage or an infection I should worry about? Is there anything I should do for it?

There is plenty of mulch around the tree to prevent accidental lawn mower strikes. The damage is in the area where the tree bends with excessive swaying in the wind. It used to go near horizontal when a storm arrived. I've since controlled for it by loosely tying the trunk to prevent bends past 45 degrees.

Other Details

  • 1.5" diameter trunk and at least 12 ft high
  • Newly planted this past Easter (2 months)
  • In southern Texas. Gets lots of full sun
  • Healthy leaves, no other diseases noticed
  • Arrived with a bad infestation of sharpshooter insects. Treated and pretty sure they are gone now.

Update

Per stormy's answer, I consulted an arborist. Nursery is reputable and leaned towards animal damage. Said it reminded him of damage deer make when rubbing against trees. Seeing that my tree is fenced in, highly unlikely to be deer. I watched my tree like a hawk and discovered the culprit. My cat was using the tree as a scratching post. Pic attached at bottom. I surrounded trunk with a wire mesh. Cat was not happy about it. Arborist thinks the tree will be fine though will take years to recover from the damage.

Close Up Zoom Out Full Tree Cat Tree

  • I have a hard time seeing this as ditty damage. But I suppose it is possible, correct distance, scribe marks. Hard to see at that scale I have to keep reminding myself 1 1/2" caliper. Your ditty is so handsome, I've never seen domestic cats do this but I am sure he is probably the culprit. How did that curlicue damage happen via ditty? The screen is perfect. What did he charge you? What else did he say? Did he advise how to clean up the loose bark? I am glad you found your Texas A&M Coop. Ext. Service! – stormy Jun 21 '17 at 22:50
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I am glad you didn't stake these trees, what you are doing for high wind is fine. I'm assuming that is what the length of rope is for? Pretty amazing those young trees with so little canopy would bend like that.

Back to the damaged bark. Looks like a bit less than 50% of the circumference of your tree. Not good but your tree has a chance. What are sharpshooter insects? How did you treat for this insect?

What you need to do now is cut this loose bark off. You don't want any more insects and the moisture held between the bark and the tree will encourage bacteria to hamper any healing.

Draw a line with a sharpie? Begin at the top of that curled damage. Draw a slightly curved line down to the next spot of damage then continue to encompass the damage in a tear drop shape. Do the same on the other side. Do not exceed the damaged area. Any bark above a cut will have damaged vascular system or compromised vascular phloem xylem below it.

Being extremely careful to not cut any farther than the depth of the bark, cut this tear drop along your lines. If you happen to cut into the tree below the bark, don't worry. But try not to. Your tree has already grown a protective barrier to the interior of the tree. You don't want to exacerbate the damage. The goal here is to remove the bark that is no longer protecting that area and is instead becoming a probe+m for secondary infections.

Allow to dry out and that is it. No sealant whatsoever.

Interesting damage. I would think this was done at the nursery or in transit. That bending in wind with a young pliable tree shouldn't have been able to do this. Especially in two chunks. Did you notice the damage when they delivered these trees or while you were planting them? I have to say, I would be talking to the nursery. Those wounds look quite old for two months. The nursery is responsible for selling healthy trees with no garffs or nicks in the bark. Have them come out to inspect your trees. There is no way this could be mower damage.

A point on the bark, a branch, will always be at that height. In fact, a branch will actually lower as the diameter of the branch enlarges. So they couldn't be blaming you. Trees are most often damaged in transit to the nursery and from the nursery. This could have been done on a fork lift. Riding on a sharp edge with vibration. That would be enough to damage the skin of the tree and not be apparent right away to the purchaser of the tree.

This tree was not inexpensive. You could also call Texas A&M Cooperative Extension Service for advice. Check to see if they could send an Arborist or Master Gardener with good tree knowledge. Should be a small price. If it is economically feasible, they should be able to arm you with knowledge so when the nursery dudes come out you are able to hold your own and not get scammed.

This tree has a 50/50 chance of success. Definitely a weak spot for breaking in the wind. There might be another tree, same caliper, height, species to replace this tree at the nursery still. These trees are an investment. One that 'grows' in value, ha ha. 2 months is a short time but the window is closing to get the nursery to replace on their own dime.

If that rope is what you are doing for wind that should be fine. For trees to grow a thick trunk, a fantastic strong root system of support they need to be able to move readily in the slightest breeze. Any thing that causes the tree to be still in the wind will weaken the tree. Make sure the mulch does not touch the bark of the trees. That will do the same as the dead bark on those wounds by holding in moisture and promoting bacteria that will girdle the tree.

Call the nursery first to let them know they have a problem. Ask them the steps necessary. Call the Extension Service and tell them about your problem. See what it would cost to have a specialist go out to your home to diagnose. Make sure with both before you do any surgery what that would do to the 'warranty'. Most nurseries give warranties. If necessary send them these pictures and get a discussion going. Also ask about fertilizer (nursery; when and what did they use on this tree). The nursery just might bring a replacement with no further need of surgery or Ext. Service...wouldn't that be nice.

Was this bare root or balled and burlapped or in a pot?

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  • Thank you for the indepth answer. I've read so much about staking mostly being bad so figured the loose securing of rope was a good compromise. Yes that's the rope you see in the picture. Wind only ever blows from the one direction so didn't need to worry about 360 degree coverage. Sharpershooters was a first for me in learning about them. They squirt a liquid out their back end, hence the name. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharpshooter_(insect) – Jay Soyer Jun 17 '17 at 20:13
  • I don't remember seeing that damage before. I weed and inspect my trees nearly every week. I just noticed that spot yesterday. If it was there on arrival, it was pretty tiny and inconspicuous. Despite my close location to Texas A&M, I had no idea about that extension service. Before I start cutting I'll take your advice and hire an arborist. Thank you! – Jay Soyer Jun 17 '17 at 20:16
  • Oh and it was delivered in a pot. – Jay Soyer Jun 17 '17 at 20:17
  • Thanks for the information, leaf hoppers. If you see more problems or any instance of eggs/larvae be sure to come back to ask...Bt would be the best. But later. Please let us know what comes of your discussions with the nursery and the Extension Service (your best friend other than us) for your yard. I certainly wouldn't accept a tree from a nursery with this problem (poor thing). Who delivered and planted this tree? This could not have happened in your back yard. – stormy Jun 17 '17 at 20:21
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    Consulted arborist. Discovered the source of damage. Updated question with results. – Jay Soyer Jun 21 '17 at 22:30

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