Dying 14 y.o maple

Discussion in 'Maples' started by KAREN WOODS, May 18, 2020.

  1. KAREN WOODS

    KAREN WOODS New Member

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    Grateful to have found this forum! We have a maple in our front yard that has been on the decline for approximately 4 seasons. It stands about 20 ft. tall, and was very healthy and productive when We moved in 6 1/2 years ago, but this spring there are only buds and new growth on the bottom third with visible dead branches And no signs of life above that—-By comparison, our tree is stunted and is about 1/3 the size of neighborhood trees planted around the same time. No idea what type of maple it is. (sorry).
    upload_2020-5-18_8-32-15.jpeg
    We first noticed problems with the highest main branch about 4 years ago and wondered if it had been struck by lightning as it appeared black.
    Last summer the bark nearer to the bottom part of the trunk began to split and come away from the tree’s trunk.
    upload_2020-5-18_8-31-27.jpeg upload_2020-5-18_8-34-0.jpeg upload_2020-5-18_8-40-35.jpeg

    I love this tree and would like to help it!

    Addition-

    - close To driveway and normally we do not use salt in the winter but 2 winters ago we had to resort to using it as the ice buildup created very dangerous conditions.
    - no doubt the kids have run over the roots with the lawn mower in their haste to complete the assigned lawn task.
    - The ground around the base is very hard and difficult to dig.

    Any help or guidance is would be very much appreciated!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2020
  2. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @KAREN WOODS, Hi Karen, you have a few problems that IMO may not be salvagable. But please read on.
    You say that the top branches went black. This is a sign of dead branches.
    The bark splitting is fairly common on thin barked trees such as maples, they are susceptible to harsh freezing conditions then a quick thaw with the sun directly on the part of the tree that splits and you say you had this. This in itself is not a death sentence to your tree. If the damage goes all the way round then that's end game. The bark can be cleaned up with a sharp knife taking it back close to the healthy bark. This is to stop moisture from collecting and causing rot. The tree will heal these scars.
    The other thing you say is that the ground around the tree is hard to dig. Now IMO this is the root cause and I mean ROOT cause as in the roots are probably starved of oxygen.
    This topic has been discussed only recently on this forum and is an interest of mine.
    So to start with you are going to need an arborist (for safety) to take out all the dead or dying wood. Secondly and very quickly the ground beneath the tree needs to be ariatted. Firstly removing grass etc to at least the area of the drip zone of your tree ( your photo shows a thick mass of turf up to the trunk), this is not good practice. Next you need to loosen the soil with a garden fork to a depth of at least 6 inches all around the tree, ( push the prongs down and wiggle back and forth) to open the soil, again in the area of the drip zone.
    Next water thoroughly and place a mulch around the tree ensuring it does not touch the trunk and not too high. I use chipped bark around all of mine. But pine bark is also OK. This can also look very attractive IMO.
    All of this may not save your lovely Acer tree, but IMO the stunted growth and upper death of branches etc points towards oxygen and nutrient starvation and probably water not getting to the roots as it runs straight off towards the road. By following the above, it will give your tree the best chance possible.
    Just to add, if you look at strong healthy trees at arboureetums or famous golf courses (Augusta), there is no grass up to the trunk. The soil is open and loose. At famous RHS sites in the UK they have over the last 20 years stopped people from walking under their prized trees because they have caused compaction, which has caused oxygen starvation and sickly trees.
    I know this is a lot to take in Karen, but I do hope I have pointed you in the right direction. The sooner you start the better it will be for your tree, but do not expect much progress visually until next year.
    I really hope your lovely tree makes it.
    Acerholic
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
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  3. 0soyoung

    0soyoung Well-Known Member

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    IMHO, this damage occurred at least a year ago, because it lacked sufficient water. You should flick off this loose bark with a gloved hand and assess whether this goes completely around the trunk. If it does, the tree will die, probably before the end of this summer.

    The core of a tree is the wood which carries water and mineral nutrients up the tree toward the leaves. The leaves make carbohydrates that are food and material to live and make more tree, but these are what keep the roots growing so that they can take on minerals and water. These are carried down the tree in the inner bark. Between the inner bark and wood is a thin layer of cells known as the cambium. These cambium cells make the trunk get thicker and regrow damage of the kind your tree has. After the cambium dies, there is nothing holding the bark to the tree and so it eventually starts to flake or peel off like you pictured.

    If there is a substantial 'life line' to the roots, the tree should live and eventually repair the damage. The narrower this life line, though, the longer it will be and the more the top of the tree will suffer. Just your decription of the apparent vitality makes me suspect that you will be wanting to replace this tree, but please do the inspection and reach your own conclusion.
     
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  4. KAREN WOODS

    KAREN WOODS New Member

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    Thank you both so much @Acerholic and @AlainK!

    First mystery solved---he's an Acer...I've never heard of these before so I am happy to know this.

    Everything you have both suggested sounds fair---we will begin an intervention ASAP. I am relieved that removing the bark is allowable, as last year I hand removed an entire colony of caterpillars that were planning a relocation in there. I do think that drought and oxygen deprivation is very likely, as the previous owner had tenants so likely watering and caring for trees was less of a priority. It would definitely explain the stunted growth too---my neighbours actually joke about it!
    I will do all of the above and get back to you on its progress---quick question...can I damage the roots around the trees if I hit them with the shovel or fork? I know it sounds like a stupid question but with it already being vulnerable, I really don't want to cause it more grief if avoidable.

    Thank you again,

    Karen
     
  5. KAREN WOODS

    KAREN WOODS New Member

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    Oh sorry...what is IMO/ IMHO?
     
  6. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  7. LoverOfMaples

    LoverOfMaples Rising Contributor

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    Lol, Thank you. I needed this. I'm kind of behind on this lingo.
     
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  8. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @KAREN WOODS , good morning Karen, no you won't do it any harm if you break a few small roots. Your tree is of an age where there will be many large and small roots to keep it going.
    Please do update the forum of how it goes.
    Fingers crossed for you and your welcome.
     
  9. KAREN WOODS

    KAREN WOODS New Member

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    Perfect! We removed the loose bark last night and plan to aerate at the base this week. This Forum is an incredible resource and I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from all of your contributions—- including the IMO clarification. I thought it was some sort of arborist technical term :)
     
  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @KAREN WOODS, well done Karen, hope your efforts work for your lovely tree.
    So glad you like the forum.
     

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