I was in a friend's garden today and spotted this pattern on the bark of a fairly young plum tree.  It looks like a kind of spiral crack to the bark possibly due to twisting of the branch?  I wondered if it should be pruned out?  Would it cause any harm to the tree to leave it?

Photos attached - hopefully.  Comments welcome.  Thanks. Melissa


Tags: Pruning, bark, damage, plum, tree

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If its only on this one area I would leave it and monitor it to see if any signs of disease become apparent or if it  spreads further along the branch, then maybe call in a tree surgeon for advice.

David if you zoom in on the photo, the bark is purple and its the wrong shape for a Birch.

There are two problems here, the first has highlighted the worse 2nd problem. These are what you have guessed classic splits as a result of a severe wind event which has twisted the tree in a short period of time - exposing a much worse problem; the reason the bark has so easily split in this manner is due to dead or dying phloem tissue, (Inner Bark Death). This can happen as a result of many particular stresses but one very common factor for this is the over use of mulch and / or the tree has been planted too deep, (although the tree in this case is clearly too old for this factor). I think it most likely that the tree has simply outgrown it's very rich location - a photo of a young shoot with at least 3 seasons growth visible would help further in pinpointing the exact cause.

I think your problem could be due to lack of water which is possibly at odds with Pip's diagnosis (which I'd agree could also be possible). This is a typical problem when trees are stressed in a period of drought. I've often seen it in heavy clay soils with shallow topsoils where little or no preparation was done and the ground goes almost rock hard in a summer drought. It's not dissimilar to what happens to the ground in a stressed clay soil if you think about it. Hope that helps.

Not that much at odds, same effect - with a decent picture of new growth on a branch it should be possible to see the previous growing seasons - which if if less than normal would account for drought stress - if far too long it would account for my guess. But there are in honesty a myriad of other possible factors. Best still is to divide the previous growing season against the one before giving a a figure which is either more than 1 or less. If less the tree is slowing if more the tree is accelerating in growth - perhaps too much.

What would be good for any future online tree diagnosis is a photo of the damage, a photo of the base of the tree, and a photo of newest growth with at least 3 years evident on it.

Hi Melissa

I have a mirabelle plum tree with large vertical splits in the bark so was interested in your post. I found this factsheet which you may find helpful:



Hi all, thanks for your comments.  I'll see if I can get a couple more photos for you.  I have pruned the tree as there was some damaged branches due to wind and the tree wasn't balanced.  I'm glad I've left this branch for now and I'll wait and see what happens.  There are only a couple of other main branches, from memory.

If I recall correctly there didn't appear to be much previous year's growth - I was wondering why this tree didn't seem to be growing as healthily as it should and naively put down to lack of nutrients and possible wind exposure.  However the gardens in this area (Ilkley, West Yorkshire) are often very heavy clay and it would be interesting to see if the top soil in the garden is somewhat superficial.

I'll try and get some more photos as suggested....  Thanks Rose for your link too.


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