View Full Version : Dying tree

05-18-2004, 12:03 AM
I'm really dont know much about trees and landscaping, just lawncare. But a customer of mine has a japanese maple that is dying for no apparent reason. He says it has always been a healthy tree up until this spring. I cannot find any signs of insect damage, but about a third of the tree has died and the rest of the leaves are weak and have small brown spots on them. Any suggestions on what to do, or Ideas as the what the cause might be?

05-18-2004, 01:22 AM
might be root rot or perhaps cats or dogs urinating around the tree alot.

Trim Creations
05-18-2004, 02:06 AM
The only things I know is root rot, dig up around it and smell the soil if it smells like a toilet its root rot. Other wise you can send in a sample to the university and for a small fee they will test it and send you and explaination....best of luck

05-18-2004, 02:55 AM
Verticilllium wilt will cause sudden die-back of maples very unexpectedly and without prior sypmtoms. Get out your jack knife and peel some of the branch bark back to reveal the cambium layer. If there is black streaks in the layer it could be verticillium. There is no treatment for it. Root rots can sometimes leave stains under the bark also. A pathology report on the roots and soil would be advised if there are trees of the same specie in the area the owner cares about. Ribeiro Plant Lab on Bainbridge Island, WA is excellent at IDing root rotting fungi and diseases. He will grow a culture and write perscriptions for treatments and cultural practice corrections etc. Dr. Ribeiro's lab phone is 206-842-1157. His charges are very reasonable. me Write back for more details on sample taking etc., if you want to track this further. Neal

Stephen M.
05-18-2004, 04:03 AM
Riberio is the world expert on phytophora diseases also. He writes the books on the subject. He is definitely the guy to go to for answers.

05-18-2004, 09:33 PM
Thanks for the replies guys, so there is no cure for either the verticulum or root rot? This is the only Japanese Maple that this guy has, and the lilacs next to it are doing fine. Should a similar tree be grown in the same place if this one dies out completely, or should that location be avoided for any maple in the future?

D Felix
05-19-2004, 11:26 PM
If it is verticillium wilt, you should not put anything back in it's place that is susceptable to VW. VW is a soil borne pathogen and stays there for a long time.

Another way to tell if it is VW is to cut a branch with a pair of pruners. If the center of the branch cut is black, chances are it's VW.

Everyone jumped on the VW and root rot bandwagon, but without knowing more, it's hard to say for sure.

Can you post a picture of the tree? Where on the tree are the dead branches? Top, bottom, side? One dead on the top, one on the bottom, how? What has the weather been like? Excessively dry, wet? How old is the tree? Any recent construction/excavation close to the tree?

Answer those ???'s and we may be able to narrow it down more..............


05-19-2004, 11:49 PM
Without a sample and diagnosis the root rot issue is just a mystery. I wouldn't guess when a few dollars and a little work will get you an answer. The balance of the landscape may be a target for root rot also. That should be your goal, to protect the rest of the trees and shrubs. Dr. Ribeiro can tell you for sure and, by the way, some root rots are treatable. We've had success in stopping disease with soil drenches of fungicide, mycorrhizae, microbes and micronutrients. Neal

05-20-2004, 05:37 PM
..without pics hard to diagnose ..firstly give the maple a good watering ..secondly a feed it..thirdly spray with fungicide..definatly sounds like fungal prob..we need pics

05-21-2004, 02:24 AM
Hand escavate around the root flair, and look for stem girdling roots- roots that encircle the main stem. This is a common problem with nursery trees.



In any event, DON'T FERT. Pushing top growth is useless when the problem lies elsewhere, and can often be more stressing.

05-21-2004, 04:16 PM
what about feeding with bonemeal to encourage root growth?

05-21-2004, 04:52 PM

First we need to know exactly what's wrong.

I should have specified don't fert with the chemical fertilizers.

That and mycor to aid nutrient intake.

Keep us posted!

05-22-2004, 03:52 PM
Was the jap maple in question under drought stress last year? These plants are not drought tolerent as they have a shallow root system. Plant likely is in a mortality spiral and is more vunrable to disease like Phyllosticta Leaf Spot. Take a sample to your county cooperative extension agent and he/she will help you cone down and find the exact cause of the problem.

Pete D.

05-24-2004, 11:18 PM
thanks again for the replies, sorry I havnt gotten back to you sooner, powers been out. I cut a branch and did not see any staining or darkening inside. The branches that died all seem to be in a bunch on one side. I inspected the leaves closer too and they look almost like they are rotting away from the inside, (small brown patches on them that spread and turn into holes in the leaves). The owner is not really concerned with saving the tree at this point because it is already half destroyed, but wants to plant another in its place. I'll get a pick tomorrow and post it for you guys to see. how much does it cost to get this testing that you guys are talking about done?

D Felix
05-26-2004, 01:56 AM
IIRC, if we were to send a sample to Purdue for testing, I think it's around $15-30 per sample. I could be way off on that, though I'm pretty sure it's in that range.

05-28-2004, 10:02 PM

It was very dry here last year, is this phyllostica leaf spot you are talking about curable? And if not, does it affect the soil too, or just the tree?

05-28-2004, 11:28 PM
The stress from last years dry period probably caused a canker at the base of the dead branch in question which cut off all flow to that part of the tree and it unfortunatly died. Cut off the dead branch at the branch collar. The leaf spot problem resulted because the tree is under stress. It is not a root disease like Phytopthora spp. and it is not a vascular disease like Verticillium Wilt....Though similar symptoms of a dying branch, the absance of brown streaks in the sapwood rules out Verticillium.
From a cultural standpoint does the tree in question have 2-3" of mulch covering the root system out to the dripline? Is the mulch piled up against the trunk of the tree? (it should be 1-2" away from trunk) This tree should be Lightly fertilized with a fertilizer Low in salts (chloride) Like Milorganite......1 cup per 2' Diameter across tree. Apply in a circle around tree halfway between the dripline and the trunk of tree. Make sure the tree is kept from drying out if you have a dry spell EVER. You should be able to bring the tree around and in time (years) with proper pruning the tree can have an astheticly pleasing shape again.
As far as the leaf spot problem I would apply daconil Weather Stik Flowable Fungicide (54%AI) at the label rate of 20 ounces per 100 gal. (1 1/4 Teaspoons Per Gal) and spray to the point of runoff......Next season after this tree leafs out spray it with daconil and again once more 10-14 days later to Prevent The Leaf Spots.
Can you post a pic of the jap maple?
Your county Cooperative Extension Agent should be able to help with common problems for no charge or a small fee. These are the people to learn from as well as classes on plant health care.

Try to post a Pic.......
Pete D.