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Anna, Teacher, writer, biologist
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We have 3 sick maple trees and need someone with knowledge

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We have 3 sick maple trees and need someone with knowledge in this area

I am a biologist, and would like to try to help. Some additional information will be useful

What symptoms do the trees have - spots on leaves, yellow/brown leaves, curling leaves, holes in trunk/branches, etc.? The more detail, the better.

In what state do you live? (There are different problems in various areas of the country).

Have any of the places you've visited given you ideas at all?

Do you know what species of maple the trees are - Norway, sugar, silver, black, etc.?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

We live in Central Florida. We were told they are flame maples. The whole tree does not turn red, only new growth.

I have three 50 ft. maples all planted approx. 8 years ago. they now have dead and dying bunches of leaves mostly on the tips of the branches. leaves also have some holes in them possibly from insects. The leaves also show signs of tiny spots such as insect droppings. I cut several small branches off the tree and the core of the branches have dark brown and or dark green centers. A few leaves are stuck together with what appears to be a cotton like substance. If you know what this is please advise me as I have spent countless hours talking to people with no positive results. Also what remedy if any is available?

The one nursery had indicated it may be a fungus in the core of the branches and that a systemic fungicide drenched around the base of the tree might do the trick. Also the canopy should be sprayed with fungicide, pesticide, miticide spray might help. This is the best info I have received however I think it is mostly guesswork.

Thank you for getting back to me. I suspect your maples have more than one problem. Unfortunately, there may be nothing you can do. Those green streaks in the wood are often a sign of maple wilt. It is a fungus in the soil called verticillium. The Flame maples are particularly susceptible to this. The fungus spreads up through the roots and eventually infects the whole tree. You could try a systemic fungicide injected into the tree, but they often do little good. Trees with this disease are often simply removed.

The spots that look like insect droppings are most likely maple tar spot. It is also caused by a fungus. It actually starts out earlier in the summer with tiny yellow spots, which most of us don't notice. By late summer, the spots have become black, and more noticeable. The spots can be different sizes. Maple tar spot is considered a nuisance, rather than a threat to the tree. It doesn't do permanent damage or cause the tree to die. Usually, the best course of action is to do nothing. You can confirm this information on Purdue University's website:

So you don't need to worry about the spots. The leaves stuck together and holes in the leaves are probably due to insects and other small pests, such as aphids. Some of them excrete a clear sticky substance. Some make a white web like substance. These pests have chosen your trees because they are sick. Weakened trees are often victims of pests. You could spray for insects, but if your trees have wilt, you'll be wasting your time.

Of course, it's impossible to be certain based only on an online description. I suggest that you contact your County Extension Agent to be sure of what is going on. The service is free, and the agents are very helpful. You'll probably need to take them samples from your trees so they can examine them. They'll be able to give you a certain diagnosis, and tell you what you can do, if anything. To find your agent, click on this link, then click on your county:

If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope I am wrong, and your trees will turn out to have something more treatable than maple or verticillium wilt.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you so much for the comprehensive response. We will take your advice and we will recontact our extension office. Is it possible to recontact you personally later on this item if there are additional questions in the near future?

You're welcome. To reach me again, just put "for Anna" in the subject line of your question, and I will get to it as soon as I come online.

Please remember to rate my answer with a smiley face. Thank you!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

More questions have come to mind. Our maples are in three separate areas of the yard, about 100 to 150 feet between trees. Why, when they have been healthy for 7 years would this turn up in all 3 trees in the same summer. And what about our newer maple about 200 feet from one of the infected trees. It is about 2 years old and 15 feet high and does not appear to be infected. What shall we do to save it?

Also, if we cut these infected trees down, can we replant something else...a maple? If the ground is infected what then?

The early signs of wilt are subtle and often go unnoticed. If that is what is wrong with your trees, there have probably been symptoms before. In some cases, wilt goes on for years and the trees manage to survive. In others, it progresses very rapidly and can even kill in one season. Some cultivars are more resistant than others, and the healthier a tree is, the more likely it is to survive.

Trees generally have a root spread equal to the size of the tree above ground. that means that even though the maples may be 100 ft. apart from trunk to trunk, the roots could be overlapping.The younger tree doesn't have such an extensive root system and is probably far enough away at this point. It may also be a more resistant cultivar. The only thing you can do to help a tree fight off infection is to keep it as healthy as possible. Make sure there is never any drought stress. Take care of insect problems. Prune out damaged or diseased branches.

If it turns out you have to remove your trees, it would be best to replace them with the most resistant trees you can find. Oaks, flowering crabs, birch, hawthorn, and willow are some recommended by university horticulture departments. If you'd like to read more (and also confirm that the green or black streaking is a common symptom) from Purdue University: hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESg4fEnk3YDna_HqTfsnzBCYely04qV4nQgT4ZoLP0Zz80xvLQOr2VgD_et5zDTHwiFL3MdFLYRvHq5zLhXRZYdFfu6KHvISl9KXnIBUHwZEZO3WwdvpYhNbL_a5xnPFgTY6v0sw&sig=AHIEtbTNwAqpqRhvtSC9y45LMpRlg4t6uQ

However, I wouldn't make any decisions until after you consult your Extension Agent. You want to be absolutely certain fo what you're dealing with first.


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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Anna, We have finally consulted with our extension agent. He was on vacation. We took samples and pictures and he is confident the problem is Black Twig Borer. We found the pest inside the twigs. The problem we are having is identifying the best control agent. What is the best pesticide for this problem, when (time of year) should the trees be treated, and should we trim the dead tips before, after or at all. There is also related fungus (from the bug). So we may need a combination or two products. We have done some research on our own but could not find a difinitive answer. We are not precluded from getting commercial products as we have a tree farm also. So we are not interested in the "Home Depot" cure.

Our extension agent has not gotten back to us. There seems to be some issues there, the office is very understaffed. Can you help us?


Thanks, Judy

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I do not see a response. What additional information do you need?

This is concerning the three sick maples about which we corresponded with you over a week ago. You thought it was maple wilt.



Hello again,

I apologize for that earlier post you received. it was sent in error. Just ignore it.

I'm sorry to hear you're dealing with such a destructive pests. Unfortunately, they are common in the Gulf states. The reason you've found such contradictory information on getting rid of them is that they are hard to eradicate, and no one product will work every time. On some trees, nothing works, and the tree will eventually die. I like to rely on University horticulture department websites for the best information. Purdue University is one of the most respected. They recommend three chemicals for black twig borers. They are bifrenthin, chlorpyrifos, and permethrin. You'll have to apply them more than once, and keep a constant watch on your trees for re -infestation.

Trimming the dead tips can be done at any time. The twigs you prune should be destroyed because they may harbor beetle grubs. . Now would be a good time for the first treatment because the adult beetles are typically plentiful now. The females burrow into the trees and lay eggs, which develop into more borers. You can read more about the life cycle here:

I hope you'll be able to get these nasty insects under control.

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