Why Does Bark Fall Off Trees?

Does your once-mighty oak sport bare patches where it used to have bark? Maybe you found shards of bark spread out like breadcrumbs at the base of your majestic maple. But don’t hit the panic button just yet. 

As one of Atlanta’s arborist services, we at Southern Tree Pros are here to share the science behind the mystery, “Why does bark fall off trees?” Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge to make informed decisions when it comes to taking care of your living landscape.

A Natural Part of the Tree Growth Process

Just like we humans shed skin cells, trees perform a similar process with their bark; it’s all part of the circle of life. As these towering plants grow and mature, their older bark becomes too tight. This is in large part due to the tree’s girth expanding over time. 

Nature has its own clever way of dealing with such things. The exfoliation process allows the tree to discard the old, worn-out bark and replace it with a fresh coat. 

The next time you spot your tree shedding its old skin, it’s likely having a natural growth spurt. Some species even do this seasonally, including:

  • Hickory
  • Birch
  • Pine
  • Sycamore
  • Silver maple
  • Redbud

When to Sound the Alarm

While trees shedding bark is as natural as us humans swapping winter jackets for summer shirts, there are indeed times when it should raise eyebrows and prompt a more careful examination.

Temperature Extremes

Both scorching summers and frigid winters can cause our woody companions to experience what experts call a “frost crack.” Under fluctuating temperatures, water inside the bark rapidly expands and contracts, causing it to split and break away from the trunk. This usually happens in existing fissures and structural weaknesses around the tree.

Warm, Sunny Spells During Cold Months

Did you know that trees can sustain sun damage under these conditions? This problem, called sunscald, typically affects the side of the tree that gets the most sunlight, often the south or southwest side. It becomes fairly common in late winter when the warming sun heats up a tree’s bark on cold days. 

Why does bark fall off trees from this? The sudden temperature fluctuation tricks the tree into thinking it’s spring, causing it to break dormancy prematurely. When the temperatures drop at night, active tissues become damaged, leading to the death of bark cells.

Unwanted Guests

Certain types of fungi and bacteria can penetrate the bark and cause it to decay from the inside out. As the tree struggles to defend itself, the infected bark often becomes discolored and eventually falls off. 

Also, it’s worth considering the impact of insects. Borers, beetles, and other creepy crawlies drill into the bark and lay eggs, damaging the tree in the process. The larvae, when hatched, chew their way out, causing the bark to shed. 

Watch out for common red flags such as:

  • Holes or tunnels in the bark
  • Sawdust or sap around the base of the tree
  • Decaying, soft, or discolored bark
  • Leaves that yellow, wilt, or drop prematurely
  • Unusual fungal growth on the tree

Seek Help From a Trusted Arborist

We hope we’ve answered your question, “Why does bark fall off trees?” If you suspect your beloved specimen suffers from any of the issues we’ve discussed, don’t hesitate to consult a certified professional. 

Southern Tree Pros has you covered with our thorough landscape health assessments and tailor-fit treatments. Our goal is to provide you with the high-quality service you need. Call us at (770) 841-1684 for tree protection tips to minimize unhealthy bark shedding!


Southern Tree Pros

Our company provides a range of services that covers everything from small residential tree maintenance jobs to large commercial projects. Our Atlanta tree service staff is fully trained and equipped to meet your needs.

Contact Us

2743 Orchard Knob Dr Atlanta, GA. 

(770) 841-1684

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