Appears to be damage from woodpeckers or sapsuckers. If they girdle the tree entirely (damage the bark all the way around the circumference) they can kill it. Try mylar balloons, plastic inflatable snakes, other "scare" tactics to keep them away. No need to paint the trunk; the tree will "heal" itself.
Could also be some type of canker. Have you seen "frass" (looks like sawdust, is actually the "poop" from boring insects) near the holes? If so, then borers are also a possibility.
I would call an Arbourist or Arbourologist to come out and look. They could narrow down what Linda B was saying. I don't know what or if it will cost in your area, but if you call your forestry service they should be able to tell you who to call.
I think you might have insect damage. Looks to low down to be woodpeckers or sapsuckers. I'd clear out around the base of the tree. Mulching close to a tree trunk often leads to insect damage.
It's clover, and yes, it is very scary ;)
Woodpeckers will peck very low if they hear insects in there, so do not rule out woodpeckers. I know this from first hand experience. So could be bugs and birds....
Could be termite damage. I'd look for the sawdust as Linda B suggested. Unfortunately it's fatal if this reaches the cambium layer.
Contact your local conservation office. I bet they could be of help. Mine here in Missouri has been great.
looks like it was clobbered by a lawn mower or something & is just starting to
Cherries and other thin-barked trees are very prone to bark-splitting. You may want to trace around the split and remove the bark inside it to encourage healing. Follow these directions from the University of Rhode Island's Landscape Horticulture Program:
They are prone to bark-splitting. But to rule out borer which many flowering ornamentals are prone to; check for frass (sawdust-like material) and a gooey or hardened amber-coloured sap. The frass is a sure sign of borer damage. If the bark as only split like Douglas H. said...check the bark and under the cambium to see if there are any insects in there. We usually don't recommend using a pruning sealer or tar on a wound anymore. Naturally healing is best; but with the split being so close to the ground; I would definitely keep my eye on it until it calluses over.
from my view it looks like a lizard smiling lol
Thank you all for the input. I will try the tracing, as I too suspect bark slitting. It literally looks as though the trunk folded iin on itself. LOL to the scary clover and smiling lizzard :-)
May not be able to save this one, the bark-splitting looks too expansive for the bark tracing to heal over enough and there is, more than likely, fungal invasion ,too.