HELP! What to do with my Maple tree??

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Renee Walker, Jul 14, 2020.

  1. Renee Walker

    Renee Walker New Member

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    Greetings! Always search this site for useful info, but this is my first time posting a question.

    My Red Rocket Maple (Acer rubrum) has been in the ground for 7 years as has done wonderfully even though I know our Zone here in Edmonton, AB is not ideal. However this year (for the first time), it was grossly delayed in leafing out in the spring and what looked like the original buds that were prepped to go, died and finally in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, new leaves emerged leaving the old buds behind.

    I spoke to the nursery where I purchased this maple and they stated that all the Acer's in Edmonton are struggling this year due to the extremely low number of days of sunlight the previous summer of 2019. "They just couldn't create and store enough sugar for this spring's budding season." "And that if it didn't fully leaf out by third week of June, it most likely will not survive the winter." BTW, my dogwood is also experiencing the exact same issues but all my other trees and shrubs are beautiful and healthy.

    It's had an incredible fight to fully leaf out on a little more than half the tree but has left at least a third of the upper canopy bare. As we are now mid-July, and I'm wondering what I should do to best support the recovery and preservation of this tree over winter??
    Do I cut back the barren branches?
    Would ongoing fertilizer help?
    (I did give it a once a week for three weeks only - dose of Evolve Ultra transplanter 5-15-5 on recommendation from the nursery, in early June)

    Thanks for taking the time to offer your suggestions! Love this tree and want to do anything I can to save it.

    Amateur tree grower,
    Lover of trees,
    Renee
     

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  2. emery

    emery Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Hi Renee, sorry to see your red maple suffering.

    I think you can be reassured, although it had a hard time getting through the winter, right now it looks like it is doing the best possible job to recover. Growth from this year looks good. It is "normal" under some circumstances, that when the maple loses a first set of buds, a second set comes out later (about 6 weeks). Of course all this takes more energy from the maple, so it lost its top, but now it's putting on growth to nourish the roots. Hopefully this year will give more sun, and a clement snowy winter for it to sleep through.

    The tree is well established after 7 years, I don't think fertilizer is a good idea at all. Hopefully it gets enough water where it is, as you probably know, red maples like a bit of wet. I guess Edmonton (Zone 3?) is borderline for red maples, but I hope the nursery is selling 'Red Rocket' because it's known to be hardy. I think it's a good idea to cut off the dead growth. As it reestablishes, you will probably want to look at the overall branch structure, which is likely to get tight in the area that has died back.

    Good luck, and let us know how it looks in the fall! Cheers, -E
     
  3. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Renee Walker , good morning and welcome to the maples forum.
    Your tree is what is called 'alive but failing to thrive'.
    The nursery you spoke to is right in that this Spring it did not have the energy stored in the roots to fully leaf out. It is always the previous season where the energy is stored via the leaves.
    By now you should have seen some swelling in buds if it was going to leaf out on the higher branches.
    IMO these branches are no longer viable and should pruned back to the live areas.
    Totally agree with Emery in that fertilizing will be of no benefit at all with this age of tree. Hopefully there will be enough sunlight this Summer for your leaves to produce the sugar to the roots to enable it to flourish next year.

    So all is not lost. But the bigger it gets the more it is likely to struggle in subsequent seasons, perhaps it is time to consider the size you want and what the roots are actually capable of supporting !!!

    As Emery said, please update the thread on the progress of your maple.
     
  4. Renee Walker

    Renee Walker New Member

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    Thanks for the great insight! I have pruned back the dead upper canopy and we shall see how it grows as we head into fall and winter. Checking the tree over, I did note the lower part of the trunk is peeling/cracking. Is this something to also be concerned about? Not sure why this is occuring. I've attached a couple of photos.
     

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  5. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Renee Walker, OK that does not look too good, but as long as this has not girdled the trunk completely there is a chance it will survive. This is a problem that can and does happen with maples and is something called tight bark. This occurs during times of rapid growth and soil that has become too dry causing splitting of the bark. At this time sugars , nutrients and water can still travel to the upper branches to nourish your tree.
    This will be a case of monitoring over the next year and ensuring the watering is kept regular, especially around the drip area.
    Do keep the trunk clear of soil and mulch as rot can set in.
     
  6. emery

    emery Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Um, well that's dire @Renee Walker . This injury is obviously the main cause of your issues. It may have been caused as described above, or by a pseudomonas infection, or freezing, etc. The point now is to determine whether you wish to waste time on a tree that is basically cooked. Carefully break off the peeling bark, and see if there is healing underneath. This can happen, but is the less common outcome. Basically you want to see how much of the diameter is stripped. Probably there is still some arc which is letting the tree function, judging from the new growth. (A tree that is completely ringed will stay green for a season, but not push any new twigs.)

    If it is ringed, it's dead. Pull it and start again. If it's <90° remaining, I'd pull it, but you can probably nurse it along if you want to. It will take years to recover. After the amount of time it's been in the ground, I'd keep it at close to halfway around. If you want to show us a picture after clearing it up a little, that might help us advise as to whether it's worth it.

    Minor digression:

    @Acerholic . D. I'm not familiar with the use of the phrase "tight bark" to describe the real condition you've identified. Mostly we use tight bark as a non-specific bark condition that prevents maples from growing properly, resembling scald. "Tight Bark" is described in this thread Japanese Maple Bark Related Issues.

    Since 2005 we have extensively discussed tight bark and no one has ever been able to come up with a pathogen or specific condition to explain it. Usually there are other issues that can be ID'd to explain the problems, and even the advocates of "tight bark" as a condition agreed that it was non-specific. During the discussion of maple diseases and pathogens at the 2017 International Symposium we basically concluded that "tight bark" is a religious question, you either believe in it or not, but proof is unavailable. :)

    Anyway that's the consensus opinion of what the phrase "tight bark" is used to describe.
     
  7. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @emery, thanks for your comments, I have found that excessively fast growth and a very dry Spring creates this problem. It has happened to me some 35 years ago. There are certain cultivars I have found more susceptible than others and need more watering. As you said, you either believe in it or you don't. I have not had this problem after being given the advice by an old Maple grower in the mid 80's.
    So my post was from experience, not from MS discussions.
    Hope that clarifies why I suggested this.
     
  8. Nik

    Nik Well-Known Member

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    Thank you @emery for making some sense of the ‘tight bark’ term. I have read that thread a couple of years ago, and I was utterly confused. Very strong opinions without any shred of evidence.
     
  9. emery

    emery Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Yes tight bark is certainly the source of many strong opinions!

    @Acerholic, I just wanted to get on the same page terminology-wise. What you describe is a well understood and quantifiable phenomenon, which I have seen many times. (I usually would expect to see vertical cracks). Your advice was good, as are your points about regular water. I just want to clarify the terminology so people don't get confused. -E
     
  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @emery, not strong opinions here at all, just what I've learnt from my own trees and advice given to me as a young gardener all those years ago, that have stood me in good order.
    I hope @Nik does not think I am opinionated, I pass on what works for me.
    Lots of tips on this forum that are not in books or discussed but do work. The term 'tight bark' has been around a very long time, hence it's use. The remedy worked for me and the gardener who gave me the advice.
     
  11. Deborah Wilkes

    Deborah Wilkes New Member

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    What’s wrong with my maple ? It isn’t usually like this
     
  12. 0soyoung

    0soyoung Well-Known Member

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    This sort of thing commonly happens in bright sun during the winter when the soil is frozen. The bright sun desiccates the cambium on the southern side of the trunk. Dry winds can do the same, but the desiccated cambium is windward instead. This sort of thing also happens to young conifers in the Rocky Mountains; it is not just maples.
     
  13. Deborah Wilkes

    Deborah Wilkes New Member

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    Thank you for this information. Do you what I can to do get the maple back to its healthy self?
     
  14. 0soyoung

    0soyoung Well-Known Member

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    I think @emery covered this: carefully flick off the 'tight bark' to see the extent of the damage, then one might be able to judge its future viability. Even if it is relatively minor, it will be several years until the cambium and bark has closed (i.e., regrown) over the damage. You may or may not find the appearance during that period of time to be tolerable.

    The remedy, if I've correctly diagnosed the problem, would be to move the tree or plant it's replacement in another location that is more sheltered during the winter. Somewhere that it gets good sun during the growing season and in shadows during the winter; a bit away from the north side of your house or in the lee of a fence, for example. This existing tree, will of course, continue to be vulnerable in its present location, though you might place a decorative structure/feature that would similarly shelter it during the winter.
     

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