Ash trees are not as common as they once were, and peeling bark could be a sign of the culprit. Unforutantely, ash trees are susceptible to a variety of pests and fungus that can cause the bark to peel.
One of the biggest reasons you’ll find your ash tree is shedding bark is because it has emerald ash borers. This is an invasive pest that greatly decreases the life of ash trees and is quite problematic. We just took down 10+ ash trees on our family property that were infested with them!
But, they’re only one of the reasons bark falls off of ashes. Keep reading to find out what the causes of shedding bark are on your ash tree and if and how you can fix it!
If you want to learn more about shedding bark on your other yard trees, check out our article: 4 Reasons Bark Is Falling Off Your Oak Tree: Cause & Solution!
If My Ash Tree Is Shedding Bark, Is It Dying?
Like we mentioned above, trees shedding bark is part of their normal process, especially if it looks healthy overall. If you notice bare wood underneath the shedding bark, that’s not a great sign and usually a sign of distress and damage.
Extreme weather, like extreme heat and frost, can also cause shedding bark on your ash tree, indicating a sign of stress.
Additionally, if your tree is shedding bark and suffering, you will probably notice other signs of stress including dead branches, dead leaves, cankers, fungus, and oozing of sap. This could be a sign of fungus or pests.
By just examining the shedding bark of your ash tree, it’s hard to say if your tree is dying. We recommend calling in arborists (aka tree professionals) to check out your tree!
Is My Ash Tree Suffering From Ash Dieback?
The short answer, yes, ash dieback will cause your ash tree to shed bark.
Ash dieback is a phenomenon that affects young shoots of trees and spreads to larger branches. It kills the young shoots first and causes injury to the roots.
Ash dieback causes dark patches on leaves causing them to wilt and turn a black color. It also creates diamond-shaped lesions on the trunk where branches join to it.
Lesions become sunken, black, and turn into dead bark, causing the bark to shed from the tree. A typical sign of ash dieback is new growth under the dead branch, stem, or bark on the trunk of the tree.
Unfortunately, ash dieback causes branches and stems to die resulting in deadwood, and stress in your tree. Similar to the emerald ash borer, ash dieback is a fungus that affects the vascular tissue, stopping water and nutrients from the rest of the tree.
Healthier trees may or may not come back from ash dieback, however, although it’s still unknown how these trees will do long term. But, it is unlikely that they will recover if more than 50% of the tree’s canopy is affected.
Let’s dive deeper into seven reasons why your ash tree is shedding bark and just how you can save it!
So, Why Exactly Is My Ash Tree Shedding Its Bark?
It’s normal for trees to lose bark, but just like most things in life, the key is in moderation! Additionally, there will be other key indicators to look for to see if your ash tree shedding bark is normal or not.
Bark acts as the tough outer layer of skin on trees, so you can imagine it can be an issue if your tree loses its ‘skin’! If you see new-looking bark underneath the bark that’s peeling, then it is probably going through its normal bark shedding. Yes, trees do that!
On the other hand, if you notice that there is bare wood underneath the peeling bark, then there is a good chance your tree is most likely suffering from pests or fungus, especially when accompanied by other symptoms that we’ll touch on later in this article.
Interested in learning more about ash trees? We have an entire article dedicated to the full timeline of an ash tree!
1. It Could Be Normal For Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
Did you know the shedding bark on trees can be normal? That’s the good news! Your ash tree shedding bark could be part of its normal process.
Shedding bark could be your tree’s way of making way for the new bark that’s coming in underneath the old, shedding bark.
So, if you don’t notice any other symptoms or telltale signs of issues on your tree, there’s a good chance that your ash tree is going through its normal bark shedding, where it’s preparing for new bark.
2. Extreme Heat Could Cause Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
A lot of plants struggle, especially when in extreme heat. Bark shedding could be a result of extreme heat. The heat will cause the tree to shed and the bark will crack due to stress.
If you think of areas that don’t usually have Florida weather and then all of a sudden it feels like Florida in New York for extended periods, not only does the heat and humidity affect us, it affects the trees, plants, and animals the same.
Water can help with extreme heat. For some ash tree tips, look to our article on how much water your ash tree actually needs.
3. Extreme Cold Could Cause Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
Like extreme heat, a lot of plants struggle in extreme cold, especially if they are already under any stress. Extreme cold or frosts can also cause the bark to shed, crack, and fall off of your tree.
If your tree has previous damage, frost can cause the damaged area to crack, which generally happens when temperatures go from freezing to above freezing rapidly.
4. Emerald Ash Borer Could Cause Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
You may notice what is called blonding on your ash tree, this happens when the bark peels off the tree and leaves the inner bark exposed.
Here’s the inside of one of the ash trees we took down. You’ll notice how absolutely devestated the inside of this tree was.
Basically, the tree begins to look patchy with spots of dark brown from the regular bark and the yellow or blonde color of the inner bark, which is where it gets the name ‘blonding’.
Unfortunately, this is a direct result and indication that your tree is heavily infested with the emerald ash borer, and that your tree could be almost on its way out.
A great way to tell if a tree has emerald ash borer is to simply rip off a bit of the bark that’s falling. You’ll notice an almost worm like pattern on the inside of the bark. This is where the ash borers burrow, between the bark and the actual wood of the tree. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of this when we took the trees down, but I’ll make sure to update it next time I’m near the wood!
Unfortuantely if you have emerald ash borers, you’ll probably need to cut down your ash tree, which you can read more about in our guide.
5. Woodpeckers Could Be The Culprit Of Your Ash Tree Shedding Bark
Woodpeckers, as we know, peck for insects in the trees’ bark.
As infestations of emerald ash borers increase, woodpeckers will intensively peck into the bark searching for borers.
Bark will then begin shedding or falling off. Although this is the result of pecking, it is mainly the result of the emerald ash borers. Basically this happens, woodpeckers and emerald ash borers are throwing a 1+2 combo punch to your ash tree, and there isn’t much you can do.
6. Fungus Could Cause Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
Additionally, fungus can cause shedding bark on your ash tree. Hypoxylon canker is a fungus that causes shedding bark in hardwood trees. This is also known as canker and is characteristic by its round, large, protrusions from the trunk or branches of trees.
When fungus develops underneath the wood, it spreads throughout the tree, causing peeling and shedding bark.
Unfortunately, the only way to deal with this fungus is to cut the tree down to prevent it from spreading.
7. Sunscald Could Cause Your Ash Tree To Shed Bark
Sunscald could be another reason your ash tree is shedding bark. This occurs as a direct result of temperature. During the day, and during warmer temperatures, the vascular cells in the tree begin to reactivate. The vascular cells are part of the vascular system of the tree, which is responsible for transporting water and nutrients.
After the sun goes down and temperatures go below freezing, vascular cells have already lost some of their cold hardiness from the warm sun and warm temperatures, resulting in injury and cracking, peeling, or shedding bark.
Should I Cut Down My Ash Tree If It’s Peeling Bark?
We understand it’s alarming if you see your ash tree peeling bark, especially when you know it’s not supposed to, after all, it’s not a birch tree.
Additionally, we know it’s difficult to make the call whether to cut down your beloved ash tree, for either aesthetics or cost. It’s even a harder choice to make especially if it’s shedding bark and you aren’t sure exactly what’s wrong with it.
If you notice fungus, oozing, cankers, dead or dying leaves and branches, and peeling bark, that’s generally not a good sign, so cutting down your tree might be in your best interest, especially to prevent the spread of fungus to your other trees.
For a deeper dive into this topic, read our article that we mentioned earlier on the 5 reasons you should cut down your ash tree.
However, we’d still recommend contacting arborist professionals to determine what’s going on with your tree and if you should cut it down!
What Is The Emerald Ash Borer And Will My Ash Tree Shed Bark From It?
Will your tree shed bark as a result of the emerald ash borer? Yes, that’s the short answer, but let’s talk about why that happens and give you a bit more detail than what we discussed earlier.
The emerald ash borer is a small emerald green insect that attacks ash trees by feeding on the tree transport vessels and stopping the tree from receiving nutrients.
The transport vessels are called the vascular system of the tree, which is responsible for transporting water and nutrients throughout the tree. So, you can see why this would be an issue.
Emerald ash borer infestations are significantly impacting the ash tree population, decreasing it at alarmingly fast rates.
You can look for typical signs of these pests if you suspect your ash tree has an emerald ash borer infestation. Infestation signs include large dead areas of your tree’s canopy or very few leaves, tunnels underneath the bark, and D-shaped holes in the bark.
The most tell-tale sign of an emerald ash borer infestation, though, is the peeling and shedding bark. Eventually, as bark sheds off the tree as a result of the emerald ash borer damage, the tree will become a blonde color. The blonde color you see is referred to as blonding, which is referring to the color of the inner bark being revealed as a result of shedding the normal dark brown outer bark that protects the tree.
If you suspect this is what’s going on with your tree, call a licensed tree professional to figure out the next steps to take with your tree!
How Can I Save My Ash Tree From Shedding Its Bark?
There are a few ways to save your tree if it’s shedding bark due to pests and fungus.
But like we mentioned, if your tree is shedding its bark as part of its normal process, then you don’t have to do anything! Although, if you notice yellowing leaves, dying or dead branches, or any signs that your tree just doesn’t look quite right, you might be able to save your ash tree from shedding its bark with the help of insecticide treatments or tree professionals.
If you want to add a new ash tree to your yard, check out our planting guide on the best time to plant ash trees.
Treat Infestations By Using Injection Insecticide Treatments Or Systemic Treatments
If you suspect your ash tree is shedding its bark due to an emerald ash borer infestation then you can use insecticides such as imidacloprid to treat the infestation.
Unfortunately, most of the insecticides and pesticides contain neonicotinoids, which are neuro-active insecticides that are lethal to honey bees.
Trunk injections are an effective way of distributing pesticides throughout the plant quickly and efficiently. This method is exactly what it sounds like. Pesticides are injected directly into the tree’s trunk and are then distributed quickly throughout the trunk’s water and nutrient pathways called the vascular system.
Systemic insecticide treatments are readily uptaken by the roots of the plants and move easily throughout the stem, trunk, branches, leaves, and even flowers. Systemic insecticides are mainly used for maintaining long-term, and residual activity.
Imidacloprid contains emamectin benzoate, which is an insecticide used in the prevention of emerald ash borers. Imidacloprid is also an insecticide created to mimic nicotine, called a neonicotinoid, which is toxic to insects, and lethal to pollinators.
One potential product to use is the Bonide Insect Control Systemic Granules, which is great for getting rid of insect pests inside and outside. It comes in granule form, which makes it easy since there is no spraying!
An injection of imidacloprid insecticide is a method that is an effective application of this pesticide. But it can also be used as a concentrate, drench, and granules.
Because imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid and is extremely toxic to bees and other pollinators, make sure to use the insecticide in the late evening after pollinators are not active.
If your infestation is past the point of no return, or almost there, the trunk injection method may be the best bet for you. Injection methods of insecticides and pesticides should only be done by licensed professionals.
If you have an emerald ash borer infestation, it is recommended not to take the infestation into your own hands, and to hire certified arborists or tree professionals. They will be able to tell you the recommended treatments for your tree, including if it needs to be cut down.
Prevent Further Spread By Cutting Down Your Tree
Unfortunately, sometimes cutting down your tree is the best option. To prevent the further spread of infestation and fungus to other trees and plants in your yard, the only option might be to cut down your tree.
If you want to maintain your tree, and prevent the spread of pests and fungus you can prune your tree yourself. We recommend the Fiskars Chain Drive Extendable Tree Pruner & Pole Saw! This does wonders when maintaining the health of your tree, and it extends to 16 feet!
Need help? We have a complete guide to pruning large trees, just for you!
However, as we mentioned above, contacting tree professionals will be the safest bet if you suspect your tree has damage or some other affliction. They will be able to tell you the best route to take, whether that be to treat your tree or to cut it down altogether.
If you do end up cutting down your ash tree, you can always consider growing a new one as they make wonderful shade trees!
That’s A Wrap!
That’s all we’ve got for our tree journey today! We hope you learned some interesting reasons why your ash tree is shedding bark. In case you forgot, let’s recap what we went over!
Peeling bark on an ash tree can be a sign of a dead or dying tree. This could be a response due to stress, pests, damage, or disease. However, it can also be a normal response, especially if it’s not accompanied by dead branches, oozing from anywhere, or dead leaves.
The main reasons why your ash tree is shedding bark could be a normal process, as a response to extreme weather like extreme heat or cold, emerald ash borers, woodpeckers, fungal disease, and even sunscald. But all in all, the emerald ash borer seems to be the main culprit in why your ash tree is shedding its bark.
If it’s not normal shedding of bark there are insecticide and fungicide treatments to attack whatever it is that’s causing your tree to shed bark. However, sometimes the best method is to cut your ash tree down altogether.
But the best method to take, in this case, is to contact tree professionals in your area to help make the call!
Thanks for sticking around and learning about why your ash tree is shedding bark, and just how to save it!
You can learn more about trees shedding their bark in our article: 4 Reasons Bark Is Falling Off Your Oak Tree: Cause & Solution!
Arbab, N., Grabosky, J., & Leopold, R. (2022). Economic Assessment of Urban Ash Tree Management Options in New Jersey. Sustainability, 14(4), 2172.
Flower, Charles E., Kathleen S. Knight, and Miquel A. Gonzalez-Meler. “Impacts of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) induced ash (Fraxinus spp.) mortality on forest carbon cycling and successional dynamics in the eastern United States.” Biological Invasions 15, no. 4 (2013): 931-944.
Kovacs, Kent F., Robert G. Haight, Deborah G. McCullough, Rodrigo J. Mercader, Nathan W. Siegert, and Andrew M. Liebhold. “Cost of potential emerald ash borer damage in US communities, 2009–2019.” Ecological Economics 69, no. 3 (2010): 569-578.
MacFarlane, D. W., & Meyer, S. P. (2005). Characteristics and distribution of potential ash tree hosts for emerald ash borer. Forest Ecology and Management, 213(1-3), 15-24.
Pugh, Scott A., Andrew M. Liebhold, and Randall S. Morin. “Changes in ash tree demography associated with emerald ash borer invasion, indicated by regional forest inventory data from the Great Lakes States.” Canadian journal of forest research 41, no. 11 (2011): 2165-2175.
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