Need advice about my Japanese Maple

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Johnhelch, May 23, 2019.

  1. Johnhelch

    Johnhelch New Member

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    I have a 15-20ft JM in my front yard. Last year it appeared to be healthy. This spring it did not leaf out. On a few inside branches there are a couple leaves . On the trunk and larger branches there are tiny red buds that appear to be tiny leaves. I scratch the bark in several places and it is green underneath. From the street the tree appears to be dead. All the other JM trees in the neighborhood have had their leaves for over a month. It is now May 23rd and I have nothing. Should I wait till next spring to see what happens, or should I remove it? Is there anything I shoud be doing to improve its chances of survival. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Are the buds still in tact at the tips or are they missing?
    Sparrows eat Japanese maple buds in the Spring stripping it of all the buds. Observation tells me that some trees they leave completely alone. One year it happens to one tree and then next year they leave it alone. Once one gets going eating the buds others join in and completely strip a tree within a couple hours. People have a hard time believing this happens BUT IT DOES!

    What next...Secondary buds will form on most branches and they leaf out about 3 weeks later. Weaker branches turn red or yellow and die.

    Here are some pictures of one tree they hit almost every year. The weak inner branches are yellow and are failing. The stronger branches just pushed buds open but leaves are still very small.

    My good camera is dead, so I did my best with my cell phone to capture.

    So you will see most buds at the tip got eaten and stem is dieing back, but new tiny buds are forming, some opening, and some just leafed out a few days ago.
     

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  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Disease would be another issue. If branches or buds are black it would be an indication especially on those branches not leaving out.

    Herbicide is another possibility, round up, grass safe herbicide, weed and feed can all cause what you describe. It's not always right away. It can cause a slow weakening of the health over time.

    An extremely cold winter with long duration below 0F for a month or more can cause a late Spring. We had the coldest winter in history and a few of my Japanese maples did not leaf out until July 4th.

    If the tree is planted low or mulch is piled up around the trunk (or combination of both) and it's been an extremely wet spring you will get rot near and below the soil killing the cambium layer. The tree will appear alive but the energy is not available to push leaves. The tree will die over the next month. The tree may also show splitting in the bark from the ground up.

    Can you provide some pictures and or feedback?

    In most cases their are things that can be done, just would like some feedback or pictures to give me a better idea of what is going on.
     
  4. Johnhelch

    Johnhelch New Member

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    I just took some pictures. I don't see any black branches. I did spray some weed killer last spring. I tried to be extra careful near the trees. I did notice today that there's a nest of tiny ants in the crotch of the tree.
     

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  5. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I see some signs of life from the pictures which is good. The budding further in is a sign of stress and also due to the additional sun exposure with the lack of foliage in the canopy. The tree still has some fight left.

    You will want to cut the stub in the crotch area in the second to last photo flush, clean out any leaf litter or organic matter so that it doesn't collect water and lead to rot. This is not the cause of the problem but could lead to future problems. If you find rot and or carpenter ants, follow up with a reply and photos for additional assistance.

    I see this happening to Japanese maples where roots reach into the lawn and grass safe herbicide is used, pre emergence fertilizer (like crab grass preventer) or round up being used on weeds in the root zone. Discontinue these products. Also avoid exposing this tree to chemical fertilizer, as it's trying to recover. Synthetic forms of fertilizer feed bacterial infections and will also stress a tree in this state to the point of collapse. As a reminder anything you put on your lawn will impact this tree. Many who use step products will be using weed and feed soon. It will most likely kill this tree. A safe alternative to chemical pre emergence is corn gluten as a weed preventer. It's safe for maples as we have been using it for years.

    We have luck treating trees in this state with PHC Roots, an all organic fertilizer with beneficial microbes. The fertilizer does not force growth. It instead restores the health of the tree that will then lead to healthy growth. Phc stands for plant health care.

    In some cases where the soil is compacted, we mix the PHC Roots into a vertical mulching mix. This helps deliver nutrients directly to the roots and increases water and oxygen available to the roots.

    In most cases the tree will start to rebound in 7-10 days after treatment with a full recovery by next spring. I can't make any guarantee nor do I benefit in any way by my product recommendation. I don't know anyone affiliated with the company or any retailer that sells the product.

    Any product left over can be used on any other landscape plants or lawn, so if it doesn't work (if it's too late or the tree was exposed to an extremely high dose) your other trees, shrubs, perennials, or lawn will certainly benefit so it's not a complete loss.

    Here is a link to the product. Shipping is a huge burden, but right now, I believe ending today (due to the holiday) they offer free shipping. So now would be the time to act if you plan on purchasing.

    A.M. Leonard Tools for the Horticultural Industry since 1885.

    The promo code I used when we bought 2 bags today is 5E19P (note you don't need 2 bags)

    Good luck!

    If you do nothing at all and the tree slowly recovers, be sure to keep up with Summer watering. This tree is weak and will not survive any drought in it's current state. By next spring you can remove any dead branches after the tree flushes out. Don't winter prune as it can lead to black tips and disease. By the end of this June any thin dead branch tips can be removed back to a healthy leaf pair. What is truly dead will be apparent by then.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  6. Johnhelch

    Johnhelch New Member

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    Thank's for the great advice. Im going to do my best to save it. I will be sure to post the outcome. Thanks again
     
  7. AlainK

    AlainK Well-Known Member Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    Thanks for this very complete advice JT1, I'm sure it will be useful to others, you know what you're talking about ! ;-)

    When I saw the picture with buds growing on the trunk, I was optimistic too : I don't have big maples like this one, but my much smaller potted ones (and bonsai) can have similar issues sometimes. In that case, I prune them back rather drastically, treat them with lime sulfur or bordeaux mix, then use wound sealant on the cuts, the Japanese stuff used for bonsai : it's quite expensive but as I said, it doesn't happen so often and my trees are much smaller, but it works well. I suppose that what's left of the healthy roots can pump up more sap to the living part of the tree instead of getting wasted in branches that are about to die.
     
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  8. Johnhelch

    Johnhelch New Member

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    I'm torn between pruning it back which some people advise me to do and take the wait and see next spring approach that others avise.
     
  9. ROEBUK

    ROEBUK Well-Known Member Maple Society

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    Thats all you need to see is one viable bud breaking then you have a fighting chance of saving the tree , me personally i am not one for using various chemical sollutions the best method for me i find are a pair of secateurs and a saw.

    Find pictures of work i am doing at the moment on my Tamukeyama been in the ground for well over 10 years now and never a problem, just have to take out the yearly inner/under growth branch die back due to light starvation.

    First pic May 2018 looking fine no probs just how i expect to see it every year , but could see something was not right though when it started to change colour and drop in early September , could also see the bark peeling away and new it was in trouble.

    Second picture is in December practically every branch has died all bar one on the lower right side , then a picture of all the branches i removed as well , no moisture in them peeling bark etc.

    Actually removed more of the branches on the left side in the new year and was then left with the one lower right side pic 5 and fed the tree heavily with liquid seaweed.

    Rest of the pictures of how it's progressing up till today, lots of new growth back budding breaking out all over with new growth especially on the old remaing branch plus a fair few new buds starting to pop out below the graft union just waiting to see what they turn out to be before i remove them ? Yes the tree does look strange but it's still alive which to me is the most important aspect and i would expect to see good improvement and the overall shape of the tree return in the next three to four years.

    Removing such a large amount of limbs from any tree is never a nice thing to do, plus it takes a bit of nerve for the first time !! It does looks terrible and once the limbs are off they are off no going back , but again you then see the new life re appear months later and only then will some of your anxiety dissapear and a sense relief sets in knowing you have hopefully saved a much loved tree .
     

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    Last edited: May 30, 2019
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  10. Luke’s Maples

    Luke’s Maples Member

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    Hi. Thanks for showing us these pictures. That must have been really scary cutting such a magnificent tree back to that extent. It is amazing how well they cope. It’s great to see it putting out beautiful new bright red growth.
     

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