My Arizona ash has lots of peeling bark. Should I cut it down?
Thanks to Tania Derington for this great question and picture! Tania is concerned about a very large area of peeling bark on the main trunk. This photo of the tree was taken recently, during the tree’s natural winter dormancy, so the lack of leaves is to be expected at this time of year, and may be completely normal.
However, the key will be to watch the tree when it begins to leaf out, or not, this spring. With an Arizona ash of this size, I would venture to guess that there may be a large amount of limb die-back in the upper canopy of this tree, which may be a safety hazard, especially if any of the limbs are hanging over a house or driveway.
Arizona ash trees are notoriously brittle and short-lived, so this one is most likely just reaching the end of its natural lifespan. From the photo, the damage does not appear to be due to any sort of disease or insect issue, the tissue appears old and brittle, but shows no sign of fungal or bacterial infestation.
The size of the trunk indicates that this is a large, mature tree, quite large, in fact, for an Arizona ash. As already mentioned, they tend to be short-lived, so many don’t get this large. I would recommend watching the tree very carefully this spring and pruning out all of the dead limbs, at a minimum.
If the tree is close to a structure such as your home or a neighbor’s home, or if any of the limbs branch out over a driveway where they could cause damage to your home, car, or a neighbor’s property, you should seriously consider complete removal.
With a tree this large, complete removal is going to be a hard task to swallow, and may be devastating, but you should weigh the potential consequences against what most likely is only a few more years of life anyway.
The size of this tree necessitates that you have an arborist to help with the removal, so consider consulting with a few different companies, to see what various professional opinions are. If you live in the city of Austin, the tree may fall under the city’s heritage tree ordinance, which would mean that you’d need to get special permission to remove it.
Note: She did have to get permission. It took about 48 hours and she reports that the process was very efficient. Here are the regulations.