Sunscald damage

This sunscald damage is on the southwest side of the trunk.

Since I’ve been on the topic of trees lately, I thought I might share a couple of questions readers have asked me about trees.

What should I do about my oak tree that is starting to drop its leaves?

There are many reasons for trees to drop their leaves. Since we are entering the fall season, I wouldn’t say it is necessarily an early leaf drop. It depends on the species. There are many diseases/fungi that oak trees can be susceptible to — too many to list for sure.

But I would suggest not jumping to conclusions. We are and have been in a drought, so I would suggest starting with the simple task of deep watering the root system of your trees out to the canopy drip line.

Your tree may be stressed and needs a schedule of deep watering over the next few months, let’s say every week to 10 days. It may not stop the leaf drop completely, but it will strengthen the root system before winter comes. And hopefully, its new growth will come in thick and healthy. If there are specific symptoms, consult an arborist who specializes in tree disease diagnoses.

What is wrong with my fairly young trees when their bark looks all crumbly and split on one side?

First, determine the direction of the damaged bark. If it is on the south- and west-facing sides, I would suggest it is probably “sunscald.” Newer trees with thin bark are susceptible to this, especially if they have small canopies that cannot protect their trunks from the intense southwestern sun. Drought-stressed trees are more susceptible. There is a fairly simple and inexpensive treatment for sunscald. Look for a light-colored or white tree wrap product at a plant nursery and loosely wrap it around the trunk. This will protect the tree’s sensitive tissue from the sun. Deep water the tree and remove the wrap in spring to check for insects.

Darla Horner Menking is a certified Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at

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