You are here:

Trees/Tulip tree


Why is the bark coming off of my tulip tree?   The tree is exposed and I am afraid insects will get inside the tree and kill it.

Hi Marion,

When you say that the bark is coming off, are your seeing large sections an inch or so thick, or are thin flakes falling off?

First I'll talk about the worst case scenario. If the bark is falling off in relatively large sections it indicates that decay is already occurring behind the bark in the trees vascular tissue. If this is the case then you have bigger things to worry about than the possibility of insect attack. If you’re seeing increasing amounts of deadwood up in the canopy as well, it's likely that the tree is responding to stress. That stress could be brought on by a number of factors including: soil compaction due to construction, grade change, lightning strike, shallow roots, or poor drainage. Without seeing the site and doing a little detective work it's difficult to provide a definitive reason for the trees' decline and the subsequent bark shedding.   

If however you see a small amount of “flakes” consisting of thin bark falling off the tree and piling near the base of the tree, you may not need to be concerned. Sometimes birds and other woodland critters can make a bit of a mess as they go about their business up in the trees. On more than a few occasions I’ve seen squirrels, wood peckers, deer, bears, and raccoons do damage to tree bark in various ways.

If you suspect that the tree may be starting to decay and it threatens your property I’d recommend having it removed before you start losing larger branches.  Before you do anything though I’d recommend you find a reputable and qualified tree care expert to come look at the tree. Most tree care companies don’t charge for consultation and you can often get a better idea of what you might be up against. Whenever choosing a tree care provider be sure to make your final decision not solely based on who’s the cheapest but rather who offers the best value. I always recommend going with a larger established company such as Davey, Bartlett, The Care of Trees, Sava-Tree or Almstead. All of the companies I mentioned maintain safe work practices and are tree experts in their field. Often people make a big mistake by going with a cheap contractor that ends up costing you more in the long run. If they’re not employing safe work practices or aren’t properly insured for tree work the homeowner can end up with a real mess on their hands if something goes wrong.

If you have any questions or need clarification I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Parker


I can answer questions regarding tree identification, plant pathology (plant diseases), entomology (plant insect problems), soil science, organic horticultural practices, proper pruning techniques, pesticide questions, watering, turf care, fertilizing.


I have 10 years of experience in Forestry and Urban Forestry in Greater New York City working and consulting for government agencies, private residents and large corporations.

International Society of Arboriculture Connecticut Tree Protection Association North Eastern Organic Farmers Association

Bachelors of Science Horticulture Oregon State International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist (NE-6660A) Connecticut Arborist License (S-5496) CT Pesticide Supervisors License (S-5496) NY Commercial Applicators License (CO881265) Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP)

©2017 All rights reserved.