The red maple tree (Acer rubrum) is susceptible several problems that may cause aesthetic damage to the foliage, resulting in dying leaves. These can include girdling roots, leaf scorch, salt injury, nutritional deficiencies, anthracnose and environmental concerns such as weather.
Leaf scorch is typically the result of hot, dry and windy weather that causes the maple leaves to lose moisture more quickly than it can replenish through the root system. The leaves will display a browning and drying on the outer edges, although a dark green color may remain near the veins. In severe cases, the leaf will dry completely and fall prematurely. Management of this disorder centers on deep hydration of the tree base during dry spells.
Maples in northern locales situated near a street or drainage area are susceptible to injury from the spray of de-icing salt. Damage is similar to that of leaf scorch as the leaves turn yellow or brown and show a lack of vigor. The sugar maple is more susceptible to salt damage than other species, but damage to all types of trees can be minimized by ensuring that the maple is planted at least 30 feet from a roadway or an area where the tree's roots can absorb the salt.
Girdling root occurs when one root -- typically below ground level -- twists around another root, blocking the flow of water and nutrition to the entire tree. Leaves may be smaller than normal, discolored or show symptoms similar to leaf scorch. Small limbs and branches may also die. The Norway maple is especially prone to suffering from girdling root. To correct this problem, the section of root that is girdling the other can be removed, and the damaged root treated with wound paint for proper healing.
A late spring frost can irreparably harm tender young maple leaves, causing them to brown or blacken as the edge of the leaves curl inward. Should the leaves survive, they typically are left with open spaces that appear as though insects have been feeding upon them. Additionally, the disease known as anthracnose typically occurs during cool, wet springs and causes leaves to brown along the veins.
The foliage of a maple will often yellow if too much extra soil is piled upon the root system of the tree. Even adding as little as 4 inches of earth can damage the maple.
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