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It is a disease called hypoxylon canker. It attacks when trees are stressed, like during our recent years of drought. It always exists in nature, but it doesn't harm the tree until it's stressed.
Trees lose their bark, revealing black, gray, dusty olive, or brown-looking surface underneath.
Oak trees are most susceptible, but it can affect other hardwoods.
Once it attacks the tree, there is nothing you can do to control it. You can remove damaged limbs if you like, but in most cases the tree will be gone, since the disease spreads rapidly.
The best thing is prevention. Keep your trees adequately watered. Avoid putting flower beds or impacting the soil around them.