Splits in Bark .... Why???

bronxfigsSeptember 27, 2011

Earlier this summer I wrote about the damages suffered by my fig trees resulting from a freak hail storm that hit the Bronx, area of NYC. As I mentioned in those postings, figs were badly bruised, and many leaves were shredded off the trees by the large hailstones. My trees were a pitiful mess, but they recovered....I think.

About two weeks after the storm I noticed small vertical splits along the bark,... (not too many, but enough of them to make me wonder)... on many of the branches and along the trunk, and usually along the upper surfaces of the branches that would be exposed to the sun, rain, hailstones, etc. The splits are anywhere from 1/2" to 2" long, and about 1/16" wide, and always parallel to the length, never across the grain line. I'm wondering if the hailstones hit the bark with such force that they damaged it to the point where it weakened and then split open. The splits almost look like someone slit the bark with a thin knife. I have never seen this condition on my trees before and I've been growing since 2007. Also, these cracks are not oozing, look dry, and don't look diseased. Only the bark is split, and not the underlying wood. The branches with cracks all produced fruit, and the trees look healthy.

Has anyone ever had this experience with the bark on their fig trees? I hope this condition doesn't get any worse, and I hope next year the splits will heal. Do you think I should rub cinnamon into these cracks and seal them with a sticky, soft wax?

I heard of "Plumber's Crack", but what gives with my trees? Huh?


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Damage to the cambium layer results in a callous forming and the outer bark splitting. If it is from hail the damage should be on one side of all of the trees, the direction the wind was blowing from. The other thing i think it might be from is rapid growth caused by fluctuating weather conditions. Had it been dry before the storm? Also, are your trees in containers and watered regularly? Personally, i would dissect a branch to see if a callous has formed and if there is any infection spreading before treating the splits with anything.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 12:16PM
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When I first noticed these thin splits in the bark, I thought they might be some type of expansion cracks. I grow my trees in containers, so lack of water isn't the issue here. I'm inclined to think that these are some sort of response to the impact from the marble-sized hailstones that trashed my trees. Bark splits are mostly only on the surfaces that are directly exposed to the elements, and hailstones.

After the trees go dormant, I'll prune out a branch or two and see what's going on. I'm almost certain that the branches are not diseased.

Thanks for the ideas. Much appreciated.


By the way, is your name a reference to Paw-Paws? Just curious.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 1:31PM
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You got it Frank. I think the name has a nice ring to it :)

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 2:28PM
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I thought your name might be a Paw-Paw allusion...or, .....never mind...... :) :) :)

Can you believe that instead of growing figs, I once wanted to grow some Paw-Paw trees but was turned off because they take so long to start producing fruit, and, you need at least two to tango. I simply do not have the room, nor the patience, for "a work in progress" that may take years to produce edible fruit. Fig trees give quick results, and... on new wood! My attention span gets shorter as the years pass by....so, no Paw-Paws for me. My loss I'm sure.

I would love to eat - one day - some of this 'exotic" fruit. I heard it is delicious.

Best regards,...Frank

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 8:50AM
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