No species of oak naturally has peeling or shedding bark. However, trees suffering from physical damage, insect infestation, fungal or bacterial infections or lightning strike may lose some or all of their bark. If your oak tree is shedding its bark, it could be suffering from a serious problem. Learning the symptoms of conditions that can cause bark loss is the first step in treating your trees.
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A lightning-struck oak tree may have internal damage that's not immediately visible. However, most lightning strikes loosen tree bark, causing it to hang off the tree in strips. Oak trees with significant amounts of loose bark may also have scorch marks or a burnt smell. Treat these trees by removing loose bark and damaged branches. Then, take special care of the tree, providing mulch, fertiliser and water during dry periods. A lightning-struck tree is susceptible to bacterial, fungal and insect infestations and needs extra attention. Damaged trees may die shortly after the strike, but some recover completely with time.
Mechanical injuries from a lawnmower or during construction can cause rot to set in under your oak tree's bark. Repeated water spraying may also encourage rotting. When rot sets in between the bark and the sapwood, the bark eventually loosens and peels. Remove affected bark and isolate the problem if possible. Some oaks may need to be cut down if the rot is too extensive.
Smooth Patch Disease
This fungal condition causes large sheets of bark to fall off of oak trees. It affects a number of species, including black oak, red oak, pin oak and white oak. These fungi break down the outer bark, exposing smooth, thin inner bark. Eventually, large amounts of the tree trunk and branches may develop smooth, bare-looking patches. Under some conditions, the fungi produce white or cream fruiting bodies, but usually they are invisible. According to the University of Illinois, this problem is unsightly, but actually causes very little damage to the tree.
Oak wilt is a fungal condition prevalent in the east-central United States. It kills significant numbers of trees and affects all species. Oak wilt causes distinctive leaf bronzing starting at the tip, followed by leaf loss. It can also produce fungus mats on and in the bark of the tree. These mats can raise and crack oak bark, causing unpleasant smells, loss of bark and infestations by beetles. These insects live under the bark as a secondary infection and can cause further bark loss.
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- North Dakota State University; Questions on: Oak; Ron Smith
- North Carolina State University; Trees: Damage; Erv Evans; 2000
- US Department of Agriculture; Oak Wilt; Charles O. Rexrode et al.; Oct 1983
- University of Tennesee; Why is My Oak Tree Losing Bark?; S. L. Wencel; May 14, 2010
- University of Illinois: Smooth Patch