I’ve looked around at other posts asking this question, but none seem to address this particular scenario.

I had a tree planted a few years ago and a ring of landscaping brick and mulch placed around the tree. The tree has been thriving and doing well best I can tell. Over the last couple of months, the bark has started to fall off and I have noticed some ants crawling around in it.

Is this something I need to be worried about? If so what should I do about it?

Main area of damage Close tree damage Location of damage zoomed out tree damage Other areas of bark are also flacky Other areas of bark Base of tree Base of tree Top of tree Full Tree Fresh growh (lighter green leaves) Fresh Growth

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    Was the tree planted after the ring had been put in place, or was the tree in first followed by the ring and mulch? It looks as if the membrane and mulch were added later, because some of the trunk is buried in it. How many years ago exactly has it been surrounded by bark and weed membrane?
    – Bamboo
    Sep 22, 2018 at 18:50
  • They were done at the same time. I did notice the weed membrane was pretty snug on the tree so I pulled it back some. It’s been 3 years I believe.
    – Kellenjb
    Sep 22, 2018 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


This injury is at an interesting height. Perhaps a cat used the tree for a scratch pad or a Raccoon standing on his back feet ate some cambium during the winter?

This looks as if when the ring of CMU of this little wall was made that some big equipment bonked into your tree? 3 years ago? Or so?

I would strip all of that bark mulch out of that ring. Dump it somewhere else to decompose. That moisture at the bottom of the trunk is caused by this non decomposed mulch. This will GIRDLE your tree. Bacteria are encouraged to begin decomposing the dead bark and live cambium. Using the cambium for energy. This is the same thing as taking a sharp knife to girdle the thin cambium lying just below the bark. Kills the tree slowly but surely.

My eyes aren't that great but someone mentioned weed fabric? Is that black plastic beneath the bark chips? Your tree has done its best to work around the injury. Leave that completely alone. Get rid of the stuff on top of the roots and the trunk.

There is a very specific line between trunk and roots. Roots are beneath the soil and trunk is not compromised by soil, mulch, rocks at all. Leave the wall. That is not the problem.

How is the health of the tree? Send a picture of the entire tree so we are able to see the extent of the damage. Have you ever fertilized?

Just an aside, your lawn is mowed way too short! Check out our stuff on lawn care! Raise your deck to 3 or 3 1/2 inches. Trust me, humongous difference. Golf courses actually use weed grasses with shallow roots so that they thrive being cut as short as astro turf. Our lawn grasses have huge root systems and need 3" minimum of top growth to feed those roots, shade out weed seeds in the soil bed, out compete weeds because there is enough photosynthetic growth to make enough 'food' for the plant to be vigorous.

Water only when you see yourfootprints stay down on your lawn. Never before. Fertilizer 4X/ year. Aerate, pulling cores out of the soil bed, once per year. Sharp sharp blades, bag clippings. Test pH before adding any lime. Nothing else should ever be added to a lawn. Check out other lawn information. On this site, not at Lowes or Home Depot! Grins!

The injury will be fine, nothing you can do, now. Give it some air, pull mulch and plastic off the base of the tree completely. Send a picture of the entire tree so we can see the extent of the damage?

Those weed fabrics were designed for under layment of gravels, not weed suppression. Doesn't do a thing for weed control. They sell this stuff under weed fabric labels knowing most people won't know any better.

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    Mulch height was determined by the company who planted the tree. The weed fabric is some of that Preen weed fabric. It had a gap around the tree when it was first put down, but three years of growth snugged it up tight. Never feterlized the tree itself. I wasn’t around when the tree was planted, so I am unsure of any heavy equipment that could have caused damage. The company who planted it is now out of business.
    – Kellenjb
    Sep 23, 2018 at 4:13
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    I would get rid of the plastic and mulch. There is nothing you can do for the injury better than the plant itself has done. If your tree is getting lawn fertilizer that might be enough and leave it be.
    – stormy
    Sep 23, 2018 at 4:15
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    On the grass, this particular cut was at 3”. The slightly scalped look is left over from a previous cut. I was out of town, let the grass grow long, then trimmed it back too much at once.
    – Kellenjb
    Sep 23, 2018 at 4:17
  • I have to apologize. I am a bit of a nut looking at other parts of a picture to find ways to help. And I spent way too much time and energy learning about cool season grass lawns! You sound definitely, WITH it! What have you decided about your tree? I'd love to see the entire tree at this point to see what damage this injury has done and hopefully being buried too deeply has not damaged your tree so badly it will be called a 'widow maker'...
    – stormy
    Sep 23, 2018 at 6:17
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    Appreciate any help I can get, even the unsolicited help. I added some more photos of the tree. There is new growth all over the tree. In fact, there was new growth right at the damaged area that I trimmed off previously. When I pulled back the weed fabric I pretty quickly found roots.
    – Kellenjb
    Sep 23, 2018 at 15:56

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