Q: Help, please! Our two-year old Coral Bark maple, developed this “owie” near the base of its trunk. Don’t know how long it’s been like this since it faces away from our house. It looks like the bark has split. Or would it be animal or tricycle damage? Above this area, the tree appears healthy. Buds are starting to form. Can we save this tree? What should we do to maintain/improve its health?
A: Y’know what I think? I think the tree was planted too deep originally. I don’t see any flare roots at the base of the trunk, leading me to deduce that they are buried. Buried roots would cause bark deterioration on the lower trunk.
Use a trowel to carefully excavate around the trunk until you find the major roots flaring off from the trunk. If they are more than an inch below the soil/mulch line, my diagnosis is correct.
I see the “planting too deep” problem frequently – usually with balled & burlapped trees. The process of digging the tree results in soil being pushed up around the trunk. Since most planting instructions say to place the top of the root ball level with the surrounding soil, the flare roots are buried too deeply.
What to do now? Expose the flare roots by gently scraping soil away. Correct any drainage situations that would direct water to sit around the trunk. Since the tree seems healthy so far, and since the damage does not girdle the trunk, your maple may live to a ripe old age.