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What Are the Signs of an Unhealthy Maple?

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    Brown, Dried Leaves

    • If you notice the leaves on your maple tree turning brown around the edges and drying out, it could be the sign of one of several problems. Leaf scorch is one disease that could cause this symptom. The cause is a lack of moisture -- the leaves lose moisture faster than they can replenish it through the root system. Eventually the leaves will die and fall off the tree. Similar browning is caused by girdling roots -- when the roots of the tree are wrapped around other roots or another object underground, which inhibits the uptake of water and nutrients to the tree. If you notice tan to brown spots forming on leaves, particularly in a sugar or silver maple, it may be a fungal disease called anthracnose. This is not generally a serious enough problem to worry about.

    Yellowing Leaves

    • When the leaves on your maple tree are turning yellow and it is not the beginning of the fall foliage change, then it could be a sign of an unhealthy tree. It could indicate a water or nutrient shortage, and the yellowing could be the early stages of leaf scorch. A nutrient imbalance from the soil could also cause this problem. Some maples that are planted close to roadways where salt has been used frequently to melt ice during the winter could fall victim to salt injury. When the soil’s salt content gets high enough or salt has been splashed on the tree itself, the yellowing can occur.

    Small Limb Death

    • Girdling roots are also to blame for the death of small limbs on a maple tree. If you notice the smallest of the tree’s limbs beginning to die back, then you could be facing a root problem. A tree disease affecting maples known as veticillium wilt may also result in small limb death. This fungal disease sometimes causes gray to green streaks to appear in the bark. These streaks can be viewed by peeling the bark back from the tree. Still, it is difficult to diagnose and only laboratory tests can confirm it.

    Black Spots

    • If you have a maple tree that has leaves covered in shiny, black spots, you may be worried that the tree has a serious disease. This is a sign that the tree is infected with a fungal disease called tar spot. The good news is that tar spot is not likely to cause anything more than cosmetic damage to your maple. There is generally no need for treatment.

    Small Leaves

    • If the leaves on your maple tree are growing smaller than they should, it could be another sign that the tree is troubled by girdling roots. The lack of nutrient uptake caused by the root problem is often responsible for underdeveloped leaves in addition to other symptoms mentioned above. If you confirm a girdling root problem, you’ll need an arborist to determine whether the maple can be saved.

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