Ask an expert: Splitting Bark, Enough Water


Question: Each fall I wrap the lower half of my young Oregon Trail Sugar Maple. But 12 to 14 feet up I see that the bark looks like it’s been rubbed by a deer or is splitting on the west side. What’s going on?

Answer: Without seeing a picture it is going to be hard to answer. If it is deer damage that is one big buck! Being that high up in the tree I am guessing this is more related to the maturity of the bark layer. As the bark matures it does change color, texture and becomes more coarse. Some trees also have a peeling bark. Though usually not sugar maple. My recommendation would be to keep an eye on the spot. If it makes you feel better go ahead and wrap the area but be sure to remove once the tree breaks bud in the spring. Also feel free to email me a photo of the area and we can take a look at it. By the way, great tree selection. Whoever recommended this tree must be a mastermind.



Question: During the holidays I could only water one side of some shrubs because of electrical issues. Can plants pull enough water to keep the whole plant alive or will one side die if you don’t water all around?

Answer: I can tell that you are a deep thinker when it comes to gardening. Ideally we would water all around the plant as this would promote healthy roots to support the entire plant. But I guess the question comes down to is some better than none. The answer would be yes. What could happen is the less watered side might experience less growth and not be as vigorous. In extreme drought that non-watered side could decline or die. But plant roots are pretty smart. Overtime the plant would develop roots more extensively on the well-watered side and compensate. Your question is more short-term. At this point the dry conditions are not harsh enough that I would be concerned about death. Bottom line is the best way to water is to soak the entire root system all the way around but for the short-term holiday decoration issue I would not fret.

Answers provided by Dennis Patton, the horticulture agent for Johnson County K-State Research and Extension. For free information fact sheets, visit, or call the Extension office at 913-715-7000.

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