Sugar Maple topped in spring

Discussion in 'Maples' started by BBLankshear, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. BBLankshear

    BBLankshear Member

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    I am in the USA and have inherited my family home that has/had a beautiful Sugar Maple at least 25 years old. A local tree trimming company topped and trimmed the tree on March 2nd. There were no buds or leaves at the time and I was told it was the right time to do this job. But about 2 weeks ago the leaves came out and they were redish brown with slight green undertones...and a little limp. Now, they are little better, but not much and a visual at a distance it looks like fall foliage. I am just about sick with worry over this wonderful tree. I am so afraid that the topping has caused some permanent damage??...or allowed some sort of stem wood infection (I've been reading). Does/has anyone seen or know of this...I'm disperate for an answer what I can do to mitigate this problem. Thank You for your time.
     
  2. Squeezied

    Squeezied Active Member

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    Re: Early spring leaves

    Could you post a few pics? That would be helpful.

    If I may ask, why did a local tree trimming company top your tree?
     
  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    We had a similar experience a few years ago. The city trimmed my large maple on our tree lawn in late February, while I was at work (since your latitude is north of mine it would be similar to your tree being trimmed in March). I came home and was shocked. I could not believe they trimmed a maple that time of year, many other trees would be fine in my area, but maples bleed very heavy when cut that time of year due to high sap flow. The sap loss was abundant and ran down the trunk for weeks, totally covering the large trunk with sap from top to bottom. That spring, our tree was very slow to leaf out and the leaves were very sparse. In summer, the tree looked pretty pathetic. Fall color came early for our tree that fall. I thought our tree was not going to make it.

    I did what I could to minimize stress on the tree throughout the growing season. During hot and dry periods, I kept the tree watered by watering the lawn (the tree’s roots run out under our front lawn). I also put down organic lawn fertilizer (low nitrogen value of 5 to 7, do not use a high nitrogen chemical fertilizer or weed and feed). I was mindful of the tree’s health throughout the growing season and did everything I could to minimize the impact of environmental stress.

    The following year our tree made a big comeback. New growth helped the canopy slowly get fuller and by middle summer it became pretty dense. Now the tree is doing great.

    My advice is to minimize stress on the tree this growing season by keeping it watered during hot and dry periods and using an organic fertilizer on the lawn to feed the tree. Do not use any tar cut sealer, it will not benefit the tree and long term it looks bad in my opinion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  4. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Yes, we'd need some pictures to offer any advice. My fear would be that March is far too late to do any pruning; the sap would be going quite strongly by that time. Although this might weaken the tree, I don't see it would kill a healthy young sugar maple.
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Far and away the main problem is that it was topped. Period.

    The misguided practice of tree topping (also referred to as stubbing, dehorning, pollarding, heading, and by several other euphemisms) has risen to crisis proportions nationally over the last decade. Topping has become the urban forest's major threat, dramatically shortening the lifespan of trees and creating hazardous trees in high-traffic areas

    http://www.plantamnesty.org/stoptopping/5reasons.aspx
     
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  6. BBLankshear

    BBLankshear Member

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    Thank you for all the comments. I must say I am obviously a newbie to caring for plants and trees. But I care thus my reason for trying to observe, name and develop a caring plan going forward. When I arrived on the scene, the tree needed to be topped to avoid powerlines. I didn't want to, but was told I had no choice, afterall they were 'professionals.' I know better now, but that doesn't help the present situation. This morning I went out to check my sugar maple and have a 'talk' with him. I can see the main part of the trunk (that was chopped the most) and it subsequent branches and leaves are the most red with only slight green undertones. The other larger branches that were not cut are more green than red. From what I've read so far, I will NOT either fertilize or use any weed killers this year. I will however make sure it is watered especially in times of no rain. I hope I have that part correct. Questions are how long of a dry spell before watering and how much (length of time) to soak. I gather I have to water not just at the base but the branch span of the tree correct?...and if I'm blessed enough to have this wonderful tree come out of this damage, I'm assuming any minor trimming should be done on a sugar maple IN THE LATE FALL at temp. of ?30? Thanks again and I'll look forward to your alls responses you've all been most helpful Brenda:)
     
  7. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Hmm, well OK. I wasn't aware that "topping" was synonymous with "pollarding." I can't imagine why anyone would pollard a sugar maple, but in any case I don't think we need to pass any sort moral judgment, just offer what advice we can. Regardless I can't agree with everything on the plant amnesty site: pollarding certainly keeps trees small, and it's attractiveness or not is a matter of subjectivity. Many gardens in France, the UK and Italy feature pollarded Tilia. I don't pollard anything, but those that visit the famous Sissinghurst Lime Walk may disagree with you aesthetically.

    Anyway I thought the OP was saying the tree had been pruned to remove a central leader, and I had no idea this was such a problem in the US. I suppose that strict pollarding of a 25 yr old sugar maple might cause a lot of damage, because suddenly the tree can't feed itself anymore.
     
  8. sasquatch

    sasquatch Active Member

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    Be careful when comparing topping to pollarding.

    Pollarding is an annual (or semi-annual) prunning of all new growth back to a specific location on the main branches of a tree. While it is not a recommended tree pruning method, some speices tolerate this pruning well, and because it is done so frequently, you eliminate many hazard concerns that may be associated with the impacts of topping. If a tree is pollarded for several years, and then the pollarding is stopped, the tree will likely experience frequent branch failure.

    Topping is more of an indiscriminate cutting of a tree to reduce its size. Topping cuts are made at an internode, or at a lateral bud that is insufficient to suport the parent branch.

    Both pruning types fail to follow the standard rules of pruning such as pruning back to an appropriate lateral branch, never removing more than 25-30% of the overall canopy, and trying to maintain natural form in the tree.

    The biggest concerns caused by topping are sun scald and damage to bark of the inner canopy of the tree, as well as the likelikhood of "sucker sprouts" which are fast growing and weakly attached branches that are much more likely to fail in the future as they grow larger. Daecay is also common when improper pruning cuts are made. This decay may cause failure in the upper canpopy decades from now.
     
  9. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It's best when Mother Nature does the watering. So when my tree was struggling, I did not have to start watering until late June and stopped around mid-August.

    An inch of water a week is a good rule of thumb. Once you get into a dry stretch in the summer, place a bowl out and run your sprinkler over the area (assuming you have a large established tree). Start a timer and when the bowl gets an inch of water, note the time and turn off the sprinkler. Never water from late morning to mid-afternoon. Maximum daytime heating usually occurs around 5-6PM depending on the time of year, so you never want to water during the hottest part of the day.

    Now that you know how long it takes to put an inch of water down, keep an eye on the weather and water once a week to make up any rain deficits.

    For example, let's say it takes your sprinkler one hour to fill the bowl one inch. Today it rained half an inch. The forecast is not calling for any rain for the next week. So at some point this week we need to run the sprinkler another 30 minutes to make up for the half inch deficit.

    If your tree is smaller, let me know because I have a different technique.
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Success of pollarding depends on pollarded tree being a tolerant species. The vast majority are not.
     
  11. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Yes we certainly agree there. As I said I had lost the plot as to how the tree was treated.

    Brenda, a picture would still help. But I hope your tree will pull through on its own. Personally I would not fertilize at all, just make sure the watering needs are met as JT1 recommends. I'd be careful not to over water, because there is bound to be root loss (to match the canopy loss) and I would be concerned about encouraging rot and water-based pathogens like phytopthora.

    If it has really been cut as if pollarding, the real question will be over subsequent years how to help restore a more natural shape.

    -E
     
  12. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    I still have questions re tree-topping.

    European forest managers seem to keep the trees smaller. I see in Saanich all the hugely tall evergreen trees around our neighbourhood and wonder how wise it is to insist on that. Dangers of fire, storms, and general over-shading of neighbourhood. We were once staying in an offshore island B&B and the owner said "of course" he topped trees, in order to preserve power lines, provide sun to his garden, etc. etc. His trees looked healthy. The property did not look denuded.
     
  13. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    That's just genetics - none of Europe's native trees has ever evolved the capacity to reach 70-80 m tall in the same way that Douglas-fir, Grand Fir, and Sitka Spruce have. Very few of our native trees ever reach more than 30-35 m tall.
     
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  14. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good afternoon Michael, I wonder also if it is self preservation. Do you remember the storm of 1987 ? The tallest of trees across swathes of the UK were felled, but the smallest mainly survived.
    One of my busiest night shifts ever btw, rather scary...
     
  15. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

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    I looked it up - that was some storm
    I do recall the Black Monday stock market episode (also in this Wiki article)
    Great storm of 1987 - Wikipedia
     
  16. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Yes it really was Georgia, big trees were being lifted like matchsticks. It was almost unbelievable to witness. But the small trees just bent and flexed.
     

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