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3 Potential Threats to the Life of Your Maple Tree

If you're like many Canadians, you love the look of mature maple trees in your outdoor living space. However, even though sugar maples are strong trees that can withstand many adverse conditions, certain pests and pathogens can turn your thriving maple tree into a potentially hazardous eyesore that may have to be removed. Following are three potential pathogen threats to the life of your maple tree.

Ganoderma Root Rot

Maple trees are particularly susceptible to ganoderma root rot, so you should inspect your tree periodically for the following symptoms:

  • Undersized, yellowing leaves and branches
  • Fruiting bodies (shelf-looking protrusions) on exposed roots and lower trunk
  • General decline of the tree such as slowed growth and perpetually drooping leaves

Once the fruiting bodies begin to form on the tree, it's generally too late to save it, and it should be professionally removed in order to prevent the disease from spreading to nearby trees. Healthy root systems anchor trees into the ground, and those with severe root rot can fall over at any time. Diseased wood also becomes weak, making it possible for entire branches to blow down even during mild windstorms.

Steganosporium Canker

Several canker diseases exist that have the potential to destroy maple trees, but the most common of is steganosporium canker. These are caused by opportunistic microorganisms that usually attack trees that are already weakened by other conditions.

The best way for you to avoid losing your  maple tree to steganosporium canker is to keep it as healthy as possible. Take measures against defoliating pests and pathogens as soon as you notice their presence, and make certain that your tree has the environmental conditions it needs in order to thrive.

If you notice numerous black pustules on the branches of your maple tree, this is a strong indication that it is infected with steganosporium canker. At this stage, there is little you can do but have the tree removed by a professional arborist for safety's sake because wood weakened by disease is unpredictable and to avoid spreading the pathogen to surrounding vegetation.

Verticillium Wilt

This scourge spreads internally within affected plants and often results in the plant having to be removed in order to protect nearby trees and shrubs. Symptoms of verticillium wilt are most likely to become evident during the months of July and August and include:

  • Sudden wilting of foliage on one or more branches of the tree
  • Stunted, yellow foliage, curling leaves, and brown streaks and spots known as "leaf scorch"
  • Abnormally large seed production
  • Discoloration and streaking on bark
  • Branch dieback
  • In extreme situations, the sudden wilting and consequent collapse of the entire tree

Like the pathogens listed above, verticillium wilt is a highly contagious condition, requiring that trees be removed with utmost care in order to avoid infecting other plant life in the area. In relatively rare cases, maple trees affected with this pathogen may be able to be saved provided the disease has not traveled to new growth from last season's wood, but it will require the skills of a trained arborist to diagnose whether or not this has occurred.

Because verticillium wilt mimics many other conditions, a complete diagnosis requires a tissue culture laboratory test. Most homeowners opt to err on the side of caution and have the tree removed.

If you run across any of these problems with your maple tree and need to have it removed, be sure to ask your landscape professional for advice concerning replacement trees that aren't as susceptible to the above pathogens. Local tree removal companies can come survey the situation, give you an idea of your options, and take action.