Maple Decline

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Have you noticed that some trees seem to drop their leaves come August? If so, take a look at the trees. Most likely they are Maples, and their color changes are not simply due to the changing seasons. And if left unchanged, there are some projections that there no longer will be Maple trees in some areas.

The sugar maple, Norway maple, and red maple species are most susceptible to maple decline in the Northeast and Midwest. However, other species can develop maple decline. Maple decline occurs when maple trees are stressed repeatedly, resulting in changes to the trees’ chemistry. These changes slow a tree’s ability to recover and to grow healthy limbs. This leads to a decline in the tree’s health; and eventually, the tree dies.

Maple decline is caused by repeated exposure to stress. Stressors include: drought, high temperatures, poor soil drainage, lack of water and nutrients reaching the roots, de-icing salt, and fungal diseases such as armillaria root rot and verticillium wilt. Signs of maple decline are: reduction of twig growth, reduction of foliage growth, early fall coloration, poor root conditions, and dead upper-canopy limbs.

Detection is key to reversing the effects of maple decline. If no action is taken, the tree will be killed. However, there are several ways to help protect your maple trees from maple decline.

  • Perforate the soil around the tree.
    Poking holes around and near the trunk will allow air to circulate into the soil. Perforation also allows water and nutrients to pass through the compacted soil with ease. Perforating your lawn can help produce a healthy and lush yard as well.
  • Water the tree at least once a week.
    A tree should be watered at least once a week during stretches of dry weather. Water should be poured slowly over the area under the branches. This allows the water to thoroughly soak the soil. The soil should be soaked at least six inches below the surface.
  • Prune dead branches.
    Just like hair, get rid of the dead ends. Pruning in the spring will allow new healthy shoots to grow.
  • Divert salt.
    Runoff water in the spring carries de-icing salt used during the winter to the trees. Too much salt can damage roots, exposing them to parasites and fungal diseases. Consider using a ditch or another type of barrier to divert salty water away from the roots.

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