What Causes a Tree Trunk To Split Vertically?

If you inspect your trees and notice a vertical crack in one’s trunk, that’s a sign of trouble! You need to call a reputable tree service professional to fix the problem before it worsens. But what causes a tree trunk to split vertically in the first place? 

The leading tree removal services in Memphis, TN, attribute this problem primarily to frost cracks, which may be caused by temperature variations within the tree. Keep reading for more information. 


What Are Frost Cracks?

Frost cracks are vertical cracks in tree trunks that could be a result of extreme fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer. This problem may occur due to a considerable temperature difference between your tree’s central and peripheral parts. Freezing temperatures cause the outer layers of wood to cool and compress more strongly than the inner layers. Consequently, vertical cracks will form.

When the weather gets warmer, the compressed outer layers will assume their original volume. The cracks will close tightly, making it difficult to notice the vertical cracks in your tree during summer.  

In addition, frost cracks can form because constant heating and cooling can cause the water molecules to expand and contract to the extent of cracking the tree’s bark. 

Luckily, the tree may not die. It’ll often be able to recover by itself through the natural healing process. But you can help accelerate the recovery process and prevent the trunk from splitting further. 

You just need to seal the crack with plastic. This will protect the opening against potential infections from disease and unwanted organisms. Remember to remove the plastic before summer, or it may cause more harm than good!

How to Prevent Frost Cracks

You could be asking, “Can I prevent frost crack?” Yes, you can. Follow these simple tips:

  • Insulate the tree. Since frost cracks develop from temperature changes, you can help protect your tree’s trunk against cracking by insulating the base. Simply wrap the trunk with a thick tarp, cloth, or burlap to keep it warm. 
  • Keep the trees healthy. A healthy tree is more resistant to bark cracking. Even if it happens, it’ll have a higher chance of healing than a poorly kept tree. Be sure to fertilize your soil every summer and water your trees in dry winter periods. Regular pruning or trimming is also essential to promote healthy growth. 
  • Choose the right location. To avoid split trunks, ensure your trees aren’t exposed to strong winter winds, which can cause the bark to become colder and more vulnerable to cracking. 

Still wondering, “What causes a tree trunk to split vertically?” Reach out to a professional.

Contact Your Local Tree Experts for Assistance

Now that you know what causes a tree trunk to split vertically or develop holes, you should always call Spruce Up Tree Care when you notice any sign of trouble, especially if you have young trees with thin bark. We’re your trusted local arborist and offer a wide range of services, including:

  • Tree planting 
  • Tree removal
  • Tree pruning and trimming

Contact us at (901) 833-8242 for a free estimate and to learn what to do when a tree falls on your house.


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