Q: We planted a 5-gallon Shumard red oak about 4 years ago. It has grown very well without any problems. Today I noticed that the bark has chipped away nearly all the way around the bottom of the tree. Upon inspection, I see that there are several joints where the bark is gone. Could you tell me what is happening to our tree and what I should do to stop it? Thank you. S.F. Mineola
A: Animal damage like this cause severe injury to trees or shrubs. If the damage is all the way around the trunk, the tree will not survive. To prevent this problem in the future, increase the health of the soil and the tree. This tree is at least 6" too deep in the ground. Its root flare should be exposed and any circling and girdling roots should be removed.
See this link for detailed information. Red oak fungal disease in California.