Pink Dogwood Tree Bark Peeling

Credit: J. Abbott

Q: The bark on our pink dogwood has peeled off for some unknown reason. We are located in New Westminster, BC. We have southern exposure with a slope to the south, and a cinder block retaining wall above. The tree is/was about 10 – 12 feet tall. The bark is peeling near the base, starting about 10 inches above the soil line.

The tree, Satomi dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’), is suffering from an environmental problem called “sunscald.” This is when the sun strikes the bark of a young tree late in the day (usually the southwest and west side), causing damage to the bark. This can occur either in summer or winter.

The tree tries to wall off the damage area by forming callus tissue. But with repeated temperature exposure, decay sets in. Eventually the decay girdles the tree, with bark completely lost all around the trunk.

Young trees which have had their roots damaged (e.g. ball-and-burlap) are very susceptible, because they lack roots to absorb moisture. Trees that are thin or that have dark-coloured bark are most susceptible to this problem.

In the first two years, it’s important to protect the tree trunk by wrapping it with either a light-coloured or
reflective tree wrap. Painting tree trunks is another alternative but it’s not widely used.

Ensure trees are well mulched and deeply soaked during the year, especially if your trees are on a sloping landscape.