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fenix_gw

Red Maple leaves and branches turning black and dying

14 years ago

Hello -

I have a six year old red maple in my front yard that has several branches that have turned black (some of them have died completely); the leaves are starting to follow suit. It doesn't look like tar spot - I've had that before and the black spots were larger and much less dense. Can anyone tell me what I may be dealing with? And if you do know, could you tell me what I might be able to do to treat it? I am in Greenville, SC.

Thanks for any help.

Comments (31)

  • 14 years ago

    There are a few things that could produce similar symptoms to your description, but none that I can think of that totally matches with how I read your description of the problem. Can you post some pictures?

  • 14 years ago

    I will try brandon - out of town now and not completely sure how to post pics to this site. Not sure if it helps but I've also noticed milky white color spots on the underside of some of the leaves. I tried to prune out some of the really black branches and there is some discoloration of the wood on the inside. Basically, I'm trying to figure out if I need to cut down the trees to prevent it from spreading to the other maples on my property.

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  • 14 years ago

    It sounds like you may have multiple issues with the tree. That's not unusual; weakened trees become more susceptible to attack from other organisms.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    As for posting pictures, one of the easiest ways to provide your photo to be embedded into a post is to upload it onto an image hosting site such as Photobucket, Flickr, etc. That should be pretty straight forward, and the individual sites will give instructions on how to get your photos uploaded to their site when you sign up.

    Once your picture has been uploaded, find its web address by right clicking on the image and copying the image location. Some sites may even provide the address in a text box below the photo for your convenience.

    Let's say, as an example, that the address of the picture you want to post is http://somepicturesite.com/yourpicture.jpg

    To embed the picture into a post, use the command
    img src="http://somepicturesite.com/yourpicture.jpg">;

    Note that I had to use special characters to get the command above to show up here without turning into a picture, but you can use it as shown (with the correct image location, of course).

  • 14 years ago

    Here are some pics:

    http://i668.photobucket.com/albums/vv41/mternes/trees003.jpg

    http://i668.photobucket.com/albums/vv41/mternes/trees002.jpg

    http://i668.photobucket.com/albums/vv41/mternes/trees001.jpg

    http://i668.photobucket.com/albums/vv41/mternes/trees004.jpg

    Thanks for any help.

    PS - There is another large red maple in my yard with early signs of the same thing. I really don't want to lose these trees!

  • 14 years ago

    Looks like cottony maple scale (insect) and the black sooty mold that accompanies such an infestation.

  • 14 years ago

    where do you live?

  • 14 years ago

    Embedding pictures isn't hard. All you have to do is type out the fairly simple command and add the image location address inside.

    {{gwi:423848}}
    {{gwi:423849}}
    {{gwi:423850}}
    {{gwi:423852}}

  • 14 years ago

    Thanks Brandon - got in a hurry while trying to multi-task; should have paid better attention.

    jean - I live in Greenville, SC (the upstate).

    rhizo - anything else you can tell me about this? Are the trees doomed? Do they need to be removed?

  • 14 years ago

    The infestation in the third picture does resemble cottony maple scale, and the black coloration on the bark and leaves is almost certainly black sooty mold. Neither of these would explain the discoloration found in the wood. It's entirely possible that some vascular disease (verticillium wilt, etc) is present, has weakened the tree, and is the root cause of the other problems. Cottony maple scale, by itself is often mostly cosmetic, but when combined with other factors may be fatal.

    Your local ag extension office may be able to examine the problems first hand and give you a first-hand diagnosis.

  • 14 years ago

    Here is a link to contact your local extension service:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

  • 14 years ago

    This tree doesn't look very big to be six years old. Was it really small when you planted it? Is this the first year that you have noticed anything unusual with it?

    I agree with the others in that you have several things going on at once. I would scrape into a branch to see if the black is just on the surface or if it is evident in the deeper tissues. If it's the latter, then this tree has verticillium wilt and will die. If everything is just on the surface, then there is a chance that you can save it. The best antifungal that I've used is Bayer Advanced. This will clear up any mold issues. The scale will have to be killed with an insecticide.

    The damage looks extensive. Personally, I would replace the tree since a tree of comparable size would be relatively inexpensive.

  • 14 years ago

    I'm guessing at the tree's age. I moved into this house in late June; the house was three years old, I'm assuming the maple was at least three years old as well. It isn't very tall but has a fairly thick trunk 3-4"...I cut into four of the branches and three of them looked fine on the inside. The fourth had a dark brown circle on the inside and was surrounded by healthy tissue...there are also no scales currently present on the tree. I shook the branches and tried double sided tape and didn't see a thing. Should I spray anyway? If I do decide to leave the tree and see what happens to it next year, will it be a detriment to my other maples?...tree oracle, twenty feet away is a larger, nicer red maple that is starting to show signs of the same thing, so i'd like to see if this is treatable (find out how and when) before i cut it down - there's no chance of digging it out.

  • 14 years ago

    One can't help but wonder, looking at the larger-scale foto that shows the tree's growing environment, whether the harsh conditions the poor thing is growing in is contributing to its weakness, allowing the scale to attack. Maples usu aren't found in such barren environments, and that foto looks like the area is dry as well, or at least the soil is compacted and perhaps infertile.

    Just a thought.

    Dan

  • 14 years ago

    scale gives off honey dew... which blackens anything below it..

    see if bayer systemic is labeled for maple..

    and if so.. use it according to the label directions...

    winter will wear off the blackness ... the leaves will fall off ...

    and it will have all winter to get teh systemic flowing..

    ken

  • 14 years ago

    I think it would be better to find out what's really going on before applying chemicals. Applying the Bayer Advanced before a proper diagnosis may be a waste of time and money and do nothing to address the real problem.

    Dan made a good point. Is the semi-bare lawn trying to tell a story?

  • 14 years ago

    what a hoot ...

    i took this statement to be a diagnosis:

    "looking at the larger-scale "

    and recommended a remedy based on scale ...

    ken

  • 14 years ago

    You definitely have a fungal infection of some sort attacking this tree and the other one. Time is of the essence in treating it. I've used Bayer Advanced on my maples and any other tree or shrub with fungal disease. I've never used any product that is anywhere near as good. It doesn't just prevent new infection but it also clears up existing disease. It works fast, too. Go and get some this weekend and spray both of your trees. The longer you put this off, the weaker both of them will get. You need to spray both with an insecticide too in order to kill the scale. If this infection is just on the surface, then both trees should be OK. The vigorous nature of red maples will work in your favor in that they tend to rapidly recover from this kind of stuff. Be ready to repeat this treatment in the spring if the problem starts up again. Once the trees are older and more established, these types of problems usually aren't as prevalent.

    Actually from the appearance of the lawn, I'm surprised this tree has fungal disease. It looks like rain has been few and far between. Fungal diseases tend to pop up when the weather is cool and damp not hot and dry. Do you fertilize your lawn?

  • 14 years ago

    It was said "You definitely have a fungal infection of some sort"

    Really? Where can you see adequate details to diagnose fungus?

    Of all the posts, the opinion of scale plus honeydew plus sooty mold makes the most sense.

    But for my nickel, I would like to see some images with more detail, especially of the undersides of the leaves.

  • 14 years ago

    The last I checked, mold is a type of fungi. The adequate details are in the pictures.

  • 14 years ago

    fenix, your observation that "there is some discoloration of the wood on the inside..." leads me to make the following suggestion. Remove several ailing branches. Carefully, using a sharp knife, whittle vertically along a branch exposing the center "vein" that runs through a branch. Normally the color of this "vein" is white or pale greenish yellow. If it is darkish green or black this is the classic method to diagnose Verticillium Wilt which is fatal. Anytime that a gardener notices a tree slowly dying branch by branch over a period of several years this test should be performed especially on maples of all types plus dogwoods.

    Do a search for VW. Lots of information. Here is a quick thumbnail description. VW is present in most soils naturally. It enters a plant/tree when the roots are severed. After planting a tree prone to VW never, never put shovel to earth beneath it. Mulch and leave it alone. Hopefully VW is not not your problem but the above may help you in making a diagnosis.

  • 14 years ago

    It was said "The last I checked, mold is a type of fungi. "

    Yes, than true.

    But sooty mold is NOT a disease.

    Instead, sooty mold lives on, and feeds on, the sugary excretions of certain insects.

  • 14 years ago

    To be a mold/fungi has to do with it's anatomy and physiology and NOTHING to do with it's host or whether it is pathogenic.

  • 14 years ago

    As stated I moved into this place in late June; I "inherited" a lawn in pretty horrendous shape. I've been keeping it mowed but can't do too much else with it until it cools down here in the fall. I turn the sprinklers on at night but it doesn't do too much good. The lawn needs to be aerated, overseeded and fertilized in october or november - my neighbors all have pretty nice looking lawns. So as far as the comments about maples being unable to grow/thrive in this environment, well, I'm not sure true; there are many around...appreciate all of the comments but sort of getting conflicting advice. Do I spray or not? Systemtic or spray? It sounds as if the majority believes that the tree should be saved.

  • 14 years ago

    Plants listed as z7, for example, can be grown in z8 without any major problems. Moving it to z6 might require some special care. Most plants are pretty tough and can withstand some adverse conditions. I hope your cardiologist is on your speed dial list.

  • 14 years ago

    Fenix, let us know what your local extension agent says.

    Tree_oracle, why are you so concerned about treatment for the sooty mold? Isn't that the least of Fenix's maple's problems?

  • 14 years ago

    Plants listed as z7, for example, can be grown in z8 without any major problems. Moving it to z6 might require some special care. Most plants are pretty tough and can withstand some adverse conditions. I hope your cardiologist is on your speed dial list.

  • 14 years ago

    Ken, you're killing me with that statement about maples. The genus has such diversity, how can you not like it. Who says a maple can't live to a ripe old age. They may not outlive an oak but they'll certainly outlive you.

    Brandon, the tree does indeed have multiple problems and the fungus may be sooty mold but that has not been established. The treatment that I suggested will take care of pretty much any fungal situation. Besides, even a strictly cosmetic problem should be addressed if possible in my opinion. I prefer my trees green, not black.

    Fenix, there has been entirely too much analysis on this thread and I'm not surprised that you are confused. This is the typical "paralysis by analysis" scenario. I have experience with this situation and my advice is sound. Just follow the spraying routine that I suggested and your trees will be fine assuming they don't have verticillium wilt. You'll find out soon enough if this is the case because they will die a rapid death.

    Petzold, your statement about zones is just not true. Blue spruces and paper birch trees are just a couple of examples of trees that can struggle in a warmer zone. Plus, there is not consistency even within the same zone. My z6 is very different than z6 in the midwest.

  • 14 years ago

    i HATE MAPLES ... because i grow about 2000 hosta under trees ...

    if i had maples .... it would be 3 ...

    maple are highly aggressive root spreaders that will out compete EVERYTHING for water and nutrients .... heck.. you cant even grow grass under a norway ... and they will ruin sidewalks and driveways ... given enough time ...

    if you have a dream of having a nice shade garden.. you can do a lot better than a maple ...

    ken

  • 14 years ago

    So as far as the comments about maples being unable to grow/thrive in this environment, well, I'm not sure true; there are many around...appreciate all of the comments but sort of getting conflicting advice. Do I spray or not? [Systemic] or spray? It sounds as if the majority believes that the tree should be saved.

    1. You think you are getting conflicting advice because we can't tell what is wrong with your tree yet.

    2. Chemicals may be a waste of money until it is identified what is wrong with your tree.

    3. As for the statement maples being unable to grow/thrive in this environment ,

    No.

    We are talking about the environment immediately surrounding the tree - the horrible lawn. It is likely the tree is getting insufficient water and gases.

    3a. This means that the tree may be attacked because it cannot get sufficient water and gases in its roots.

    3b. This means fix this and you may not need to spray.

    3c. However a request was made for you to check for wilt. You have not responded to that.

    3d. This means that it is unknown whether your tree has a bad pathogen. Until you check for this everything else is just speculation

    3d(1) If you have it, the tree is done.

    3d(2) If you do not, the immediate problem is that horrible lawn that is stressing the tree. Until you get that under control, you likely are going to have issues with that tree.

    3d(3) From here you need to not only aerate numerous times to alleviate compaction but likely need to add amendment as well. Until you get that under control, you likely are going to have issues with that tree.

    Dan

  • 14 years ago

    "You definitely have a fungal infection of some sort attacking this tree and the other one. Time is of the essence in treating it...The longer you put this off, the weaker both of (the trees) will get."

    "The last I checked, (black sooty) mold is a type of fungi. The adequate details are in the pictures."

    "...even a strictly cosmetic problem should be addressed if possible in my opinion."

    Tree_oracle, why is treating a possibly only cosmetic problem such an emergency? Your recommendations might help the tree or might not, but I believe some attempt should be made to define the problem(s) and especially the causal issues before action is taken. The black sooty mold will go away on it's own if the causal problem is resolved.

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