Another horticulture dilemma. This mature Japanese maple, whose canopy is beautiful, is thriving in my backyard. I have just noticed this damaged bark in several places. It looks like someone scraped it with a knife. I know this could be fatal to the tree. I live in Harahan on the river road and often have miscellaneous varmints in the yard. If it's not damage caused by animals, could it be a disease? I would be grateful for any help.
This type of damage is typically done by squirrels. In the spring while the tree is putting out new growth, the layer of tissue just under the bark is full of sugar. The squirrels strip off the bark to get at this sweet layer. It can be incredibly destructive. Maples are commonly attacked. This tree has been hit really hard – what a shame.
If you notice it early before a lot of damage is done, wrapping the trunk and major branches to protect them can help. The wrapping would need to stay on until the tree finishes sending out spring growth and the leaves are fully developed and mature. Burlap or plastic sheeting held in place with duct tape, heavy duty aluminum foil or other materials could be used.
Consumer Horticulture Specialist
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture