Apple Tree Bark Peeling – What Should You Do?

Apple tree is a staple in many home gardens. It is a beautiful sight all year round, especially during the summers and fall when the blooming and fruiting is at its peak.

Nonetheless, apples are notorious for a variety of infections, pests and other problems. You’re justified to be a little sceptical about your apple tree bark peeling. While it could be perfectly normal the same symptom could also be a sign of some major problems.

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Continue reading and you’ll understand all you should know about the bark peeling off your apple tree.

Why Is Bark Important?

Bark protects the living tissue of the tree that’s just underneath. The layer that’s just below the bark is called cambium. Cambium is the growth layer of the tree that’s responsible for making new cells during the growing season. These cells become part of the xylem, phloem and more cambium. Ultimately, bark helps the trunk, branches and roots grow thicker and stronger.

Bark supports the trees structure making it possible to transport water and nutrients from the roots to the canopy. If the bark peels off and exposes the cambium, this living layer becomes vulnerable to damage. If the cambium is damaged the tree’s structure and water and nutrient transport will suffer. This may resulting in death of the tree.

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If you notice that the bark on your apple tree is peeling off, investigate the phenomena further to decide whether it’s normal or if it’s a matter of concern.

When Is Bark Peeling Normal?

Sometimes, it’s normal for old trees to shed their bark. It’s important to understand the differences between the normal bark shedding process ora sign of disease / injury. There could also be other factors causing the problem.

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If you see new bark covering the wood at the locations where the old bark is shedding off, consider it as normal. If so is the case, there typically isn’t anything to worry about. Peeling of bark in trees occurs when it’s growing rapidly.

The old bark’s dead tissues can’t extend at the same rate as the tree is growing and peel off to reveal the new bark underneath the layer.

When Is Bark Peeling A Problem?

If you can see new bark under the peeling bark, your tree is healthy. But, if you only see bare wood under the bark that’s peeling off, that’s when you should be concerned.

If you do find bark peeling off without new bark underneath this could be a sign of environmental, disease or pest dammage.

Remeber bark peeling in this way is a symptom of something that needs to be identified.

What Problems Cause Apple Tree Bark Peeling?

If the bark peeling off an apple tree exposes living wood within, there can be a number of possible problems that could be causing it. Here’s a list:


If the bark is peeling off the southwest side, especially on a young apple tree, it could be a result of excessive exposure to the sun. Young apple trees are susceptible to sunscald, which results in cracking and blistering. Sometimes, if the problem isn’t addressed in its early stages, the shedding of bark could follow.
A common issue is when an Apple tree all of a sudden exposed to sunlight. This happens when a structure or taller tree nearby is removed. This causes intense bright sunlight that can cause sunscald if the tree isnt used to it. It’s important to offer some protection to alleviate the problem. Shedding of bark due to sunscald can severely affect the health and lifespan of your apple tree.
One solution to this is to plant a climbing plant in the path of the sunlight to provide shade to the apple tree bark. Or grow something in a tall pot that you can slowly move to aclimatise the bark to the sun.

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Frost Damage

Bark peeling of apple and crabapple trees can sometimes be a result of winter damage. Trees that are not fully dormant when a hard frost hits them can be stressed due to the sudden, unanticipated temperature change. Mild temperatures in the winter can trick apple trees into thinkig spring has arrived. When this happens followed by a frost or drop in temperature can cause a shock to the tree and bark. Shedding of the bark, revealing living wood within, is one of the symptoms that result.

Cantankerous Canker

Canker is a fungal disease that attacks the bark of the apple tree. It typically causes sunken lesions and sometimes may also result in the breaking off of the bark in the infected part. When the bark peels off as a result of canker, you’ll find dead, brown wood underneath. It is important to get rid of the canker since it can quickly spread and kill the entire branch.
If canker appears on smaller branches, the entire branch should be pruned out and discarded. If it appears on one of the leading branches of the tree trunk, cut out the entire portion, until only healthy tissue remains on the tree. Coat the revealed tissue with protective paint to prevent it from being attacked by fungus.

Boring Insects

Flatheaded borers, shothole borers and other boring insects can infest the apple tree. These boring insects dig tunnels through the branches, leaving holes on the surface. The bark around these holes can become wet and open up to reveal wood within. Prune out the infested branches and coat the exposed wood with protective paint to prevent further problems.
Heat stress and water stress makes trees even more susceptible to pests so make sure that the trees are well watered through the hottest months. Young trees can benefit from painting dilute white latex paint along the trunk to prevent heat stress.

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So now you know what apple tree bark peeling really means. Take a closer look to see if the peeling of the bark is as a result of normal, healthy tree growth, or does it mean something else. Be sure to address the problem before it takes hold of your tree and damages it beyond repair.

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