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Plant Diseases/Crimson Red Maple Bark Disease


My Red Sunset Maple tree is suffering from significant bark damage where the bark releases totally from the sapwood. I peeled it back to prevent insect infestation a few months back. The wood inside has some cracks and hasn't made any improvement. I am not overwatering the tree. What can I do to help the bark heal and treat the wound? I don't want to lose the tree as it looks absolutely beautiful everywhere else and no sign of any disease with the leaves or buds.

You did not say what the size of thew tree was so I will assume that it is a young tree. It sounds like a case of sunscald. Young maples are particularly susceptible to sunscald. Sunscald is basically a bark injury and the tree will usually quickly recover. The bark splitting isn't something you can really do anything about after the fact.

Sunscald or sunburn occurs in late winter when the sun is bright especially if new snow is on the ground. Sunscald usually occurs on the south or southwest side of a tree. Thin bark on the tree is warmed enough to become active. When temperatures fall sharply at night, the inner living bark is killed. Thin-barked trees such as maple are most susceptible, especially when young.

Control: Sunscald on newly planted trees may be prevented by wrapping the trunks with burlap, kraft paper or special tree wraps. Trunks may also be shaded on the south and west side with boards or screens. The tree wrap can be found at most nurseries.  

Normally I would say cut the loose bark off --this would speed up healing and spray the area with Merit to keep borers from entering the wound. Make sure you only cut the loose bark and not the tight bark. Check with your local garden type store for an insecticide containing Merit.  

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Jim Hyland


30 years experiance in the ID and management of forest diseases and ID of landscape tree diseases.

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