The bark is falling off my tree. Is the tree dead? Diseased? Will I have to have it removed? Please see the pics:

Click on any photo for full size

tree trunk

bark missing from tree

bark on ground

trunk with bark missing


  • 2
    ignore the trunk for a moment. Do any of the branches have leaves? Find a nearby tree of the same type and compare leaf amounts. From your pictures the tree appears leafless, and it shouldn't be. That's far more a symptom than bark falling off is. Feb 5, 2013 at 18:34
  • @Kate Gregory: Thanks so much for the comment. Unfortunately, I don't have another tree that's similar to this one. The needles all appear to be brown and there aren't many. There are still some cones. I don't know what kind of tree it is. I live in Maryland, if that helps.
    – Laxmidi
    Feb 6, 2013 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Most of this looks to be old damage and I suspect it is caused by a porcupine due to:

  • irregular areas chewed off
  • damaged areas are dry with no signs of fungal/viral infection
  • no signs of holes or sawdust indicating borers or beetles
  • some damage occurs well above areas that deer or mice will feed on

Any tree would be stressed from this amount of damage and this seems to be born out by the thinning leaf canopy. As Kate Gregory recommends compare the amount of foliage to similar trees in the area to establish what is healthy.

If it is porcupines one control method is:

...is to place a skirting of galvanized metal or tin around the base of the tree. The metal reaches all the way around the tree trunk and is tall enough that the porcupines can't easily reach above it.

from here. You might be able to see similar damage on other trees in the area.

It is also possible that the cause is something else but we would need to know more about what kind of tree and where it is growing.

Here is a link to complete list of tree guard materials. It includes

  • bitter repellants
  • plastic mesh tubing
  • "rolled roofing, sheet metal or 1/4" galvanized hardware cloth"

Current thinking in tree care in regards to wounds is to leave them alone and let the tree utilize it's natural defense mechanisms to close off the wound. Tar, shellac and numerous other "ideas" people have used do not appear to help the tree and could harm it by providing an area that is sealed where existing fungus/virus/bugs can live in comfort.

  • Thank you for the info. I hadn't considered that a porcupine could've caused the damage... Other than preventing future damage, is there anything that I can treat the trunk with? ...I live in Maryland... I'm not sure what kind of tree it is... I have a few pine trees and they all have green needles.
    – Laxmidi
    Feb 6, 2013 at 17:12
  • 1
    Don't seal wounds in trees. It will "scab over" naturally. This is one case where nature provides the best defense against infections and further damage. There are many products to paint over wounds, but the current consensus seems to be that these products actually cause more harm than using nothing at all. Feb 7, 2013 at 17:00
  • @vallismortis The accepted answer indicates the cause and why it is so hard to diagnose from a picture
    – kevinskio
    Jul 6, 2015 at 23:54
  • The link to metal skirting site is dead.
    – VividD
    Dec 19, 2017 at 6:36
  • @VividD updated link
    – kevinskio
    Dec 26, 2017 at 13:21

I had a tree service come out. They said that it's dead and is infested with pine bark beetles.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.