Silver Maple Tree in decline

Maple trees can decline for a variety of reasons. Most maples are susceptible, however, urban trees need special care to prevent stress factors that cause decline.

Adverse conditions can cause a maple tree so much stress that it no longer thrives. Maple tree’s in the city are victims of air and water pollution, road salts, and construction and landscaping injuries. In the country, trees can be completely defoliated by insects, and putting on a new flush of leaves uses up valuable energy resources. Without energy reserves, trees become vulnerable to decline. A maple tree depletes its energy reserves when it has to fight off environmental stress, and physical injuries that leave trees open to other infections. Other causes of maple decline include root breakage and soil compaction from heavy equipment, nutritional imbalance, prolonged drought and recklessness . Almost anything that causes a tree to expend energy to recover can weaken the tree, and if it happens repeatedly, the tree goes into decline.

Here is a list of symptoms that can cause maple tree decline:

  • Failure to put on adequate new growth can indicate a problem. Twigs should add about two inches to their length every year.
  • Maples that are declining may have paler, smaller and few leaves than in previous years.
  • Maple dieback includes symptoms such as dead twigs or branch tips and dead areas in the canopy.
  • Leaves that change to fall colors before the end of summer are a sure indication of decline.

Early intervention can prevent a declining maple tree from dying. Try to identify the cause of the problem and correct it. If your tree is being sprayed with road salts, raise the height of the curb or construct a berm. Divert runoff from roadways away from the tree. Water the tree every week or two in the absence of rain. Make sure the water penetrates to a depth of 12 inches.

Fertilize annually until the tree shows signs of recovery. Use a slow-release fertilizer, or even better, a two-inch layer of compost. Quick release fertilizers add an excess of chemical salts to the soil.

Prune the tree to remove dead twigs, growth tips and branches. When you remove only part of a branch, cut back to just below a side branch or twig. The side branch will take over as the growth tip. Although it’s alright to remove dead branches any time of year, keep in mind that pruning encourages new growth. When you prune in late summer, the new growth may not have time to harden before cold weather sets in. If you’d like an expert to treat and properly care for your trees, call a professional tree service.