Advice on Coral Bark with dead area on trunk

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Daniel Wright, Jun 26, 2018.

  1. Daniel Wright

    Daniel Wright Member

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    Hi All, I have long stalked your beautiful JM pictures but this is my first time posting.

    I bought a huge Coral Bark a few months ago. It is nearly 10 feet tall with thick foliage and an amazing branching pattern, in particular it has a low V which I love. I looked at probably 100 Coral Barks before I picked this one (they are very common at nurseries here in Raleigh NC).

    This weekend I discovered, to my horror, that half of the bark around the trunk near the base is dead. This was covered up by dried bark, which is why I did not notice when I bought it. Not only is the trunk dead halfway around at the base, but a dead strip about 1 inch wide continues about 3 feet up the trunk.

    I have contacted the seller and they offered an exchange. Here's where I could use some advice. How severe do you think the dead area is to the health of the tree? I expect it will slowly rot and eventually cause the tree to fall over in a gust, but I don't really know. I love the look of the tree, but don't want to invest in future heartbreak.
     

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  2. chimera

    chimera Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Welcome to the forums Daniel.
    The damage looks severe in the worst possible place it could be. I would definitely take the exchange for a healthy tree or have your funds returned till you can find a suitable tree. I really don't think a reputable seller would be knowingly selling a tree in that condition.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    The tree is healing underneath. The wound wood pushed the dead bark causing it to break away to expose the heart wood underneath. If lime sulfur was still sold, it could be used to preserve the heart wood to prevent rot. I could give advice on how to save the tree, but there is nothing that is 100%. You paid for a healthy tree and what you have is a big liability. Take their offer of a new tree. I have seen this before and it can go either way but it depends on the future and we don't know how the next 3-5 years will play out. Weather seems to be getting more extreme, so the odds are not in your favor. A stress event like extreme heat, drought, frost, freeze, or an extremely wet dormant season can all spell disaster for this tree. Getting through transplant may use up energy reserves and may lead the tree in the wrong direction. Start over and get a healthy tree.

    Inspect the new tree closely. Get down on your knees and check out the bark and make sure there is no black. Push on the bark on all sides, it should be tight against the trunk or heart wood and not floating with craking or space between it and the Heartwood. (This tree would have flexing bark and bark would have cracked in the area of the wound, healthy side of trunk would not, so it's important to check all sides) Pull some dirt away from the trunk/ root flair and make sure there are no girding roots or other areas of exposed heart wood covered up by the mulch. There should be a nice root flair on all sides of the trunk. If possible lift the tree up a few inches beyond the pot wall to check for white healthy new roots.

    Look for a healthy graft Union. Make sure it is not under the soil. Note some trees may be grown by cutting and will not have a graft Union. Avoid trees with a bulging graft or show any black in the graft. Abundance of buds or new growth sprouts below the graft may be an indication of a tree with failing health. A graft with unbalanced thickness between root stock and scion wood is an indication of xylem layer was not matched up (only cambium layer matches) and will become more unbalanced / unsightly with age. This is a liability as the tree ages and will be more prone to failure.

    Inspect up the trunk and into the canopy to make sure bark is healthy and free of black or grey areas. Make sure branches extend from the trunk with a healthy Union and avoid branches that grow sharply upward (narrow crotch) that may be weaker or cause rot as the branches thicken. Any removed branches should have a healthy collar that is healing, not cracking bark or cracking heart wood. Avoid trees with black branches or black branch tips in the canopy. Look in the canopy for branches pruned back hard (to fit in hoop house over winter) as this bad practice may be covered up by new growth and trees subject to this bad practice are weaker and have lurking long term problems in the future.

    Everyone knows how to spot a nice "looking" tree. Take the time to investigate beyond the out appearance, get close and personal to find any hidden problems, and you will have a great tree both inside and out. An extra 5 minutes will be time well spent if it saves you from heart break in the future. Now you know and thank you for sharing so others can learn too! (Only if they take the time to learn, that is!)

    Good luck and welcome to the forum!
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
  4. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    You mean it's banned in the US?...

    I made my own years ago, to my neighbours' dismay: it stinks like rotting hell! Sulfur + Lime, boiled, then sifted. It was OK, but I kept it in a glass jar, and one day, I dropped it. It took weeks for the ugly smell in the garage to go away, even with the door open 24/7 !

    Now I have some that I bought at a bonsai show, and it's in a plastic bottle.

    About your tree: sunburnt and freeze can damage the bark. It's not always lethal, as JT said. I can see that the wound is healing on each side, if the part of the trunk doesn't rot, the "lips" will eventually close in.

    I've had similar problems, and Bordeaux mix is my medicine. Have a look at this thread, I've added a photo i've just taken. The lips are pouting:

    Healing bark damage
     
  5. Daniel Wright

    Daniel Wright Member

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    Thank you for your replies. I have read many of your posts (all 3 of you) and I feel honored =)

    chimera: Thanks for confirmation on the severity. My choices were to keep this damaged but beautiful tree, or exchange for another that I have not even seen and it's hard for me to believe I will like it (Can you imagine someone else picking a JM for your yard???). But at least the other tree will be healthy and I could sell it with a good conscience if I do not like it.

    JT1: Thank you for all the info, in particular I did not know how to spot an unhealthy graft Union.

    I certainly did not inspect it carefully enough when I bought it, I have learned my lesson. I've never seen an injury like this so completely covered up by the dead bark (in the picture I have peeled off the bark so you can see the extent of the wound). When I bought it, it's like the entire dead area was shrink-wrapped in bark that looked the same as the rest of the trunk. If I had pushed on it, I would have noticed it flexing like you said.

    AlainK: Very interesting to see the healing process, and how quickly it happens! This is the kind of knowledge you can only gain with many years of experience, or if someone like you shares their findings.
     
  6. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I am glad you found the graft info helpful.

    These things (bark problems) are hard to spot especially in the nursery environment where things are very close together. The good news is that you saw it now and had time to get the new tree. Most times it's not noticable until next spring when winter ice expansion pops the bark away. Giving it a push with your fingers shows us what the eye can't see. I didn't learn this from a book, it happened by chance and do it now any time I see unusual looking bark.

    95% of the time you take the time to look things over and you find everything is fine, but that 5% always makes me glad that I did.

    Everything I share is from experience of seeing it at a nursery, making a mistake myself and learning from it, seeing it on a garden tour or in public gardens, or helping a friend problem solve. We are always learning from each other on this forum and it's a beautiful thing to share, reaffirm, or expand our collective knowledge. The world collective on this forum gives us exposure to how maples grow outside of our own climate and it's valuable coming from people with a variety of backgrounds. I certainly would be lacking without it.
     
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