Whether it’s storm or hurricane season with its high winds and blowing rain or it’s winter with its freezing temperatures that bring heavy snow and thick ice, tree damage can happen.

You or your certified arborist can easily manage some issues like smaller broken branches with proper pruning, equipment, training, and cleanup. But other issues might take more consideration. Some tree repair work is 100% better left to the professionals who have the right tools and skill to take care of the job. Trees with split trunks can fall into this category.

Let’s learn more about what causes a tree trunk to split vertically and how to repair a split tree trunk.

What Causes a Tree Trunk to Split Vertically?

Vertical splits in tree trunks can happen for multiple reasons.

One of the biggest reasons you might find this on your tree is due to frost cracking, which happens in colder weather regions. Frost cracking, which is also referred to as sun scald, occurs when the inner and outer wood in a tree’s trunk expands and contracts as the temperatures rise and fall. For instance, winter temperatures can dip below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and if this happens before or after a particularly sunny day that has warmed the tree’s trunk, those quick expansion rates can strain the tree’s trunk, creating a vertical crack.

Frost cracks can happen in areas of the trunk that were previously damaged, possibly by a piece of lawn equipment or landscape machinery, or you might find them in certain tree species that have naturally thinner barks or are just more prone to split tree trunks. Maples, sycamores, apples, crabapples, ash, beech, horse chestnut, and tulip trees are particularly susceptible to frost cracks.

Lighting strikes can also cause split tree trunks. An easy way to (sometimes) identify a lighting strike is they will spiral down the entire trunk.

Can a Tree Survive a Split Trunk?

Small vertical splits in tree trunks don’t usually cause serious tree damage as long as the tree is generally healthy.

But those openings do create entry points for diseases and insects. If your tree is weak from storm damage, drought, or lack of proper care, it is especially vulnerable to these types of infestations or infections.

Larger split tree trunks, however, can increase the hazard potential of your tree, particularly if it’s located near your home, a high-trafficked area, or vehicle storage where it can cause damage.

How to Repair a Split Tree Trunk?

When it comes to how to care for a split tree, you have a few options depending on the severity of the vertical split.

Minor splits may heal on their own with proper care, similar to a small tear in a piece of paper that isn’t ruining the entire sheet. But larger splits may require some assistance to heal, like if that paper tear took up half the page and would need tape to bring it back together.

For severe split tree trunks where a branch fork has split in half, but isn’t completely removed from the tree, a certified arborist can use some strategies to put the split portion back. This typically takes professional cabling and bracing techniques using metal screws or brace rods or metal strand cables attached to screw eyes in the major branches on the sides of the split fork.

Doing this properly takes years of knowledge and experience to determine proper cable tension and screw rod setting techniques. This work also requires an understanding of how to do the job safely as well as access to the right equipment.

Should I Get Help For a Split Tree Trunk?

A vertical split in a tree trunk can easily become hazardous.

If you’re not sure about the status of your tree, it’s always best to consult with a certified arborist to get proper advice and guidance on the next steps for your beloved tree.



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