Q. On my two-year-old maple tree, at about hip level on the trunk, all the bark is gone all the way down the tree. – S.S., Springfield

If the bark is peeled all the way around, it does not sound too hopeful that the tree will survive. A tree would have a hard time surviving if such damage went even half way around.

This is a process known as girdling, the killing off the tender wood just below the bark. This area of the bark is where all the moisture and nutrients travel up and down the tree to keep the plant alive.

I can think immediately of four possible causes for what you describe.

First, some maple trees do shed plates of bark, and sometimes these can be in rings around the tree. However, the tree is already putting on a new tough layer underneath that will now be the new bark.

The second possibility would be insect damage. You will usually see some holes bored into the tender wood where the bark has been peeled away.

If insects are the culprit, I assume you would find bore holes in the wood and possibly some slime or sawdust lying about on the trunk or on the ground. If you are convinced it is an insect problem then I would have the tree removed and burned or hauled away.

Possibility number three would be squirrel damage. Squirrels may scratch away at bark on a tree to try to get to some insect that may be living underneath the bark.

Finally, it could be a result of woodpecker damage — a woodpecker searching for insects pecks lots of holes into the tree and eventually does enough damage to the bark and the tender layer of new wood underneath, that the two separate and the bark will peel away.

Q: I’ve had a problem in the past with flowers and plants not blooming.– G.H, Springfield

The problem is usually related to the age of the plant, temperature, light, nutrition or pruning practices.

Many plants must reach a certain age before they are mature enough to produce flowers. Fruit trees, such as apples and pears, may require as long as five or six years before they produce fruit. Gingko trees can take up to 15 years before flowering.

A stressful environment may delay flowering even further.

Plants that have been budded or grafted may have delayed flowering or early flowering, depending on the type of rootstock onto which the plant was grafted.

Plants must be positioned to receive the proper amount of sunlight. Some plants flower best in full sun, others prefer cooler conditions in the shade.

Cold weather may kill buds on partially opened flowers. Hot, dry weather may cause buds to dry up. Various apple cultivars and peaches require exposure to periods of low temperatures.

Nutrition imbalances such as too much nitrogen can cause plants to produce primarily leaves and stems with few flowers.

Pruning plants at the wrong time of the year can be a reason plants fail to bloom. Spring-flowering plants begin setting next year’s flower buds in the late spring.


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