Questions on: Maple

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service

Q: I planted a maple tree in my yard two years ago. The problem is that the leaves have red pimples on them. What is causing this and what can I do? I live in the Turtle Mountains two miles west of Belcourt. The area is surrounded by pine and oak trees. The maple tree is located near a lilac bush. (Belcourt, N.D.)

A: Those red "pimples" (good description!) are actually erinium mite galls that developed as a result of mite activity very early in the spring as the leaves were beginning to unfold. Like pimples on humans, they don't look pleasant, but they are not causing any harm to the tree. They usually come and go as predatory mites discover them and eat them for breakfast. Spraying to control the mite galls is tricky at best and may have a negative environmental impact at worst. Sit back and enjoy the changes the tree will go through as the season wears on. Be sure to rake up and destroy all fallen leaves this autumn.

Q: I have a variegated maple planted in my yard. We have had the tree for 10 to 12 years. About four years ago, it started getting a few solid green branches mixed in with the variegated ones. This year, three-fourths of the tree is solid green. We are losing the variegation. What can we do? I've noticed that others are having the same problem. Can we help our tree? (Mayer, Minn.)

A: The tree will be OK, but it will not have the variegated foliage in the future. Many times these ornamental anomalies are periclinal chimeras that can revert back to their original form or leaf coloration. Not much can be done about this except to watch it take place and appreciate the diversity of Mother Nature!

Q: I live in the Pacific Northwest and have fairly sandy soil. I just planted two drummondi maples. I want them to be successful, so what would you recommend for fertilizer? (e-mail reference)

A: Very little, if any, fertilizer. Do a 10-10-10 broadcast around the drip line of the tree every spring.

Q: I want to transplant some Amur maple shrubs. How many shoots should I transplant together and what should the spacing be? I want them to be shrubs, not trees. Thanks for your help. (e-mail reference)

A: Generally, the clumps are in three or five. If you want them to be shrubs, pack them together as one. Root grafting eventually will take place, if it hasn't already done so, which will not hurt anything. Then space these clumps as far apart as you want. You're taking a chance of losing these plants by doing the transplanting now. Survival rates would be much higher in early spring or fall when they don't have foliage.

Q: Please help! We have a wonderful, healthy 50-year-old maple tree in our backyard, but it is being attacked by grey squirrels. The squirrels are eating the bark right off the branches! It is amazing how they can take such great swaths, but worrisome. I've read that branches actually can be killed off by this. Our options seem to be guns, slingshots, hoses, hiring a teenager to live in the tree or taking valium and watching nature do her always fascinating work. Any advice? Thanks in advance for your help. (e-mail reference)

A: You could try timed fireworks, an action-sensitive sprinkler to startle them, a scare owl, balloons or other birds of prey.

Q: We have a maple that for the first time (I think) has not produced helicopters. My husband disagrees with me and says that they don't produce every year. Do they or have I been imagining the bags of helicopters I've been sweeping up every year off our patio? If I am right and they do produce every year, why aren't they this year or are they late? Thanks! (e-mail reference)

A: They normally produce every year, but this year may be an exception because of the weather. Flower buds are more sensitive to low temperatures than leaf buds. With the snap back and forth in temperatures this spring, the flower buds could have been wiped out or they could be a little late this year.

Q: We purchased an autumn blaze maple from a tree farmer and had it professionally installed. Can I put up a retaining-type wall around the tree to use as a planter? How far do I have to stay away from the trunk? How high can I go? Your help would be greatly appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: Forget the retaining wall and piling soil around the trunk because it eventually would kill the tree. You can plant under the tree's canopy without any problems, but if you bring in more than just a few inches of soil over the root system, you will have trouble.

Q: The past couple of years I have noticed that the bark on my maple tree (crimson king) has turned green. This tree is planted near a main highway. Could the salt that is used on the road cause this discoloration? (e-mail reference)

A: If the discoloration is on the north side of the tree, it could be algae or moss, which is not harmful to the tree. If the tree is healthy, I wouldn't worry about it. If you want your concerns settled, I suggest making contact with an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. Be sure to check credentials before allowing any work to proceed on the tree. To find someone in your area, go to and click on "find a tree care service" at the top right of the page.

Q: I woke up this morning and found that there were little, leaking holes (almost uniform) around my maple tree about 3 feet up from the ground. I've never seen this before. Can you tell me what might have happened last night? (e-mail reference)

A: You have sapsucker activity on your tree. They ring trees with their pecking. When the sap begins to flow through the phloem tissue just below the bark, it causes bleeding. There is nothing to worry about. This is a temporary phenomenon that occurs in the spring from root pressure that will end as the leaves open. Too bad you can't tap it for syrup! Thanks for the excellent photo. I'll use it in my classes!

Q: I am trying to find out if anyone has used the sap from a Manitoba maple to make syrup. Is the sap from this tree toxic? (e-mail reference)

A: You can make syrup and it is not toxic.

Q: We have purchased an old home that has two maple trees that hang over our back deck, porch, shop and patio grill area. I really don't mind the natural things that fall from a tree, but the birds that have been feeding on the buds and blossoms have left a little too much to clean up. My child shouldn't be playing in it, either. I never have heard of birds feeding on the buds and blossoms of such a large tree, but I don't know much about it. Is there anything that would discourage the birds? These trees are fabulous shade for the back area, but not if we can't go out and enjoy it. (e-mail reference)

A: I am not a bird specialist, but from what little I know, birds have habits just like humans. There is no simple solution. You cannot legally shoot, trap or poison them. I would suggest contacting the Fish and Wildlife folks in your region of the country. Go to to get the locations of the offices in your state. Usually, extreme scare tactics will move them away, but the experts will have some specific guidelines for you. Just don't cut down the trees! This problem can be solved.

Q: We have a crimson king maple. This winter it developed a large crack at its base that goes up about 3 feet. The bark is peeling away in that area. The branches are turning a strange, moldy green. We do not want to lose the tree. Can you help? (Congers, N.Y.)

A: The crack probably has been developing for a long time. It could be the result of internal decay or winter sunlight hitting the south or west side of the tree causing this fissuring to take place. The crack probably was unnoticeable until it got to the size you describe. Since you are located along the Hudson River, the humidity is bound to be high during the summer months, which would result in lichen or algae growth you described. Since this is such a stately and focal point tree, I suggest that you hire a qualified International Society of Arboriculture arborist to see what can be done to extend the life of the tree. Go to to find a qualified company or individual in your part of the state. Be sure to check credentials and qualifications before allowing any work to be done on the tree. Thanks for giving me your location! That helps a lot in making judgment calls such as this.

Q: I have a maple tree and want to plant another one, but I don't want to purchase the new tree. Is there is a way to take cuttings or something from the tree I have? How and when should I do it? (e-mail reference)

A: Your question is too vague to give you a focused answer, so I'll give you the options. Maples are monecious, which means there are separate sexes on the same tree. Some trees are predominately male or female in flower production. If the tree you have is a silver maple that produces an abundance of seeds, they will germinate shortly after planting. If your tree doesn't produce much or any seed, then the flowers are male and you would need to propagate the tree through softwood cuttings after the leaves come out, but before the new growth hardens off. There are some 50 known species of maples. Each species has its own twist as to how it should be propagated. Some seeds need stratification for 90 days at 41 degrees in a moist peat moss. Some root readily in the same manner as the silver maple, while others take considerably longer with a much lower success rate. Most homeowners lack the facilities and patience to do this type of propagation, so I would advise you to buy another tree. You can get one in a 5- or 10-gallon container that will take off quickly and provide you with shade and landscape impact in a short period of time.

Q: My autumn blaze maple tree was planted in clay soil three years ago. It has done well and the trunk diameter has doubled in size. The weather is starting to warm up and the snow is melting rather fast, which is leaving a lot of water at the root system. I have noticed for a few weeks that the trunk of the tree is shedding a lot of water from the area where the branches shoot out and is running down the outside of the trunk. It's almost like a faucet. Is this something to be concerned about? (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

A: I think what you are describing is normal sap flow coming from the tree. In spite of all the snow you folks had, the soil was not frozen to any great depth. Typically, trees such as maples and birches will "bleed sap" in the spring from openings or wounds in the aerial parts of the tree. Unlike humans, the tree will not bleed to death. Once the foliage elongates, the sap stops flowing.

Q: Our family is yakking about some black spots on maple leaves. Some are saying the trees have cancer and are trying to breath in air just like a smoker. Others are saying there was too much rain in our area this year and the soil is too alkaline. What’s up, Ron? (e-mail reference)

A: Gossip or rumors are always more interesting than reality. This is actually one of the showiest fungi that maples get. Your tree has a fungus called tar spot (Rhytisma acerinum). Other than cosmetic degrading, it is usually harmless to most healthy trees. This is a fungus that is sensitive to air pollution, so the air must be clean in your area! The fungus is caused by extended wet periods. If the old leaves are not cleaned up in the fall, re-infection could occur the following year. Fungicide sprays are not recommended unless it comes back every year. If that happens, spray applications should be pre-emptive and done by a professional arborist.

Q: I have a maple tree that was damaged while my house was built. However, after seven years, it is still alive. Earlier this year, I noticed sawdust on the ground on one side of the tree. I looked closer and noticed holes bored into the tree. Shortly after, I noticed black ants climbing up the tree and going into the holes. I’m afraid the ants will weaken the tree and potentially make it dangerous during a storm. Is there something I can do to eliminate the ants? (e-mail reference)

A: I really doubt the ants are doing direct damage to your tree. What is more likely, they are harvesting larval borers that are tunneling under the bark or insect eggs that may have been laid inside the tree. To protect the tree from further borer damage, I would suggest an application of Merit insecticide. It is sold under the commercial name of Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control. It is taken up systemically through the roots and then is available to eliminate any plant-feeding insect for up to 12 months.

Q: Last summer I received a fall fiesta maple tree as a gift. I planted it about 5 feet from the lake shore as a replacement to a large, diseased elm tree that had to be cut down. When I planted it, I used tree fertilizer and fertilized again early this summer. This year, some of the branches never leafed out. Most of the leaves it does have are irregular-shaped and have rust-colored spots. What is the problem and what can I do to solve it? (Pelican Rapids, Minn.)

A: First thing you should do is stop fertilizing. Prune out the dead branches and then send a sample to our plant diagnostic lab here on the NDSU campus because I cannot make a diagnosis based on what you have told me. Send the sample to the NDSU Plant Diagnostic Lab, 206 Waldron Hall, Fargo, ND 58105. There is a nominal charge for examining the culture and making a determination.

Q: What are your thoughts about the fall fiesta sugar maple? How is it compared with autumn blaze maple? (Chanhassen, Minn.)

A: In our part of the country, it barely hangs on, but it should do fine in Chanhassen. I can’t compare it to autumn blaze, as it also is borderline up here. Both have good qualities, if planted in the right location. I would encourage you to talk with a local nursery for its take on these two trees.

Q: My young autumn blaze maples have leaves with dead, dry tips. The problem mostly is confined to the mid to lower branches. Are they lacking something? I use a sprinkler system to water them. Also, after spraying my silver maples with Malathion, the cottony cushion white sacs are still there and look active. The Malathion was applied using a canister on a garden hose. Would this have diluted it too much? I have received your advice to use Sevin or Bayer Advanced. (e-mail reference)

A: The sacs will change very little, if at all. It is the crawler that is about the size of a period at the end of a sentence that you are attempting to eliminate or reduce in number. It would be better to apply Bayer Advanced in the early spring, rather than now. Your autumn blaze maples may be getting too much watering.

Q: We have sugar maples along our driveway. Last week, one of them started losing its leaves. We can’t find any bugs. Do we cut down the tree to make sure we save the other trees or wait and see what will happen? (Barney, N.D.)

A: I wouldn't cut the tree down because it may have shed its leaves as a reaction or protection against the heat and drought. If the branches still are supple and the cambium is green under the bark on those branches, then that is what happened. The tree will leaf out again this year or wait until next spring.

Q: I have just discovered what look like tiny marshmallows on my maple trees. They are sticky. What is this? (e-mail reference)

A: You are being plagued by the same insect pest that we have in our area, the cottony maple scale. What you are seeing is the adult female producing her egg sac, which has some 1,000 to 1,500 eggs. The eggs are or soon will hatch the scale nymphs, which are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. They will migrate to the foliage, insert their stylets into the underside of the foliage and begin feeding. The result of this massive feeding is the production of copious amounts of honeydew secretions from the insects. They then will migrate down onto the woody stem tissue just before leaf drop and cover themselves with a dark scale for the winter. These will be fertilized females that will produce egg sacs next year and repeat the cycle. The best control we have been able to recommend is the use of a product called Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control, which is a systemic insecticide that is applied as a soil drench around the trunk of the tree. The material then is translocated throughout the vascular system of the tree and kills the feeding insects. It is supposed to have a longevity of 12 months after application.

Q: We have some growth on the leaves of our maple trees. The growth looks like pine needles sticking out of the leaves. Is this bad? Is there something we can do? We have two of these trees at one end of our yard and one at the other that have the same problem. We also have a different type of maple in our yard, but those maples don’t have this needle thing going on. I would like to know if we need worry or if there is a possibility we may have to cut the trees down. (e-mail reference)

A: This is a nipple gall that is caused by the harmless feeding of a mite early in the spring as the leaves are unfolding. The mites are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. The mite feeding has a growth regulator effect on the developing tissue. The galls will not harm your trees, but do have a cosmetic impact. The galls likely will disappear next year. Spraying is not recommended because natural predators usually will keep them under control.

Q: My young maple tree is losing leaves (many) and I just noticed that the branches seem to be turning black. I am not sure what variety it is, but the leaves are green. They seem to be healthy leaves (not brown) when they fall off. I would like to save it because I planted it in memory of my son, who passed away. Until this spring, it has grown very well and has been healthy. (e-mail reference)

A: This could be what is known as sooty mold, a secondary pathogen that results from aphid- feeding activity. Carefully examine for aphids on the underside of the leaves and the small, new growth. Aphids excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew that causes this mold to grow under the right conditions. Control the aphids and the mold should disappear. If not, then a fungicide application will clear it up.

Q: Was it you who recently spoke on TV about the sticky cottonlike problem with maple trees? Upon checking, my maple and my next-door neighbor's tree have this problem. Both of us are kicking ourselves for not listening closer to your talk about what to do. Help because we want to save our maple trees. (e-mail reference)

A: Yes, it was me. They interviewed me for almost 30 minutes, then used 10 seconds of it on the air, which I think didn't do much justice to this pest. It is known as cottony maple scale. It is an interesting insect that sneaks up on tree owners. This pest becomes suddenly obvious to the most casual observer. There are a couple of options for your consideration. If the trees are large, you would be foolish to attempt spraying with an insecticide. This is something that should be done by a professional applicator. The most effective and least environmentally disruptive treatment is to spray next spring with dormant oil while the trees are still leafless, which is around mid-April. The Bayer company has a super insecticide that can be applied to the root system through a soil drench. The product moves through the entire plant and kills any feeding insects. It is available at local garden centers in our region. Isotox and Orthene also can be used because of their systemic activity. However, I am loath to recommend Isotox because of the horrible smell it produces and its possible toxicity to the plant. Orthene would be the better choice.

Q: I have been told that red maple is toxic to horses. Is crimson king also toxic? (e-mail reference)

A: Red maple has been confirmed to be toxic to horses. Until proven otherwise, all maples should be considered potentially toxic. The crimson king is a cultivar of the Norway maple.

Q: I have a ton of maple helicopters in my yard. I figured my lawn mower would pick them up, but it didn't and there's a lot left. I tried to rake them, but that didn't work. If I leave them in my yard, will the maple helicopters kill the grass? (e-mail reference)

A: I would be more concerned about the trees that are producing such a heavy seed set than about the lawn grass. You might want to get the trees inspected. As for your lawn, the seeds eventually will whither and blow away. If you still are concerned, you can rent a lawn vacuum from a local tool rental agency that will do an excellent job.

Q: A large limb broke off of our maple tree during the 2005 Thanksgiving ice storm. It ripped the bark off the trunk as it came down. The tree has leafed out. Should we try to paint the large wound? If so, what kind of paint should we use? I looked at a small can of pruning paint and laughed. I would need a case of it. Thanks! (e-mail reference)

A: No painting needed. If the tree is going to recover, it will do just fine without paint. In fact, the tree will do better without paint!

Q: We have a large maple tree in our front yard (not sure what kind). One of the branches is shedding bark. I'm wondering if it’s normal or if I should cut that branch off. The rest of the tree seems fine. (e-mail reference)

A: Normally, as silver and paper bark maples mature, their bark becomes exfoliating. But to have it show up on one branch is not common. I wouldn't cut that branch off if the tree has a normal foliage appearance. Examine it closely to see if there is any evidence of borer or bark beetle activity, which would be manifested by frass and sawdust mixed together, along with some small holes in the branch.

Q: Have you written anything on tapping maple trees for syrup? (e-mail reference)

A: I haven't because so much has already been written, so why add to the din.

Here is a Web site that is loaded with information -

Q: We have an amur maple tree that has quite a few more branches and foliage on one side and the leader is bending over instead of going straight up. Any suggestions for pruning or what we can do? (Marion, N.D.)

A: Prune it next spring before the buds open. The tree will bleed, but that should not cause any problems, so don't let it bother you. I cannot tell you “how" to prune it by e-mail because each tree pruning situation is different and involves both art and science!

Q: I planted an autumn blaze maple four years ago. The tree has grown rapidly and is now about 20 feet high and 10 feet wide. A snowmobile clipped one of the lowest branches of the tree in 2004. That spring, I sprayed some pruning sealer over the torn area. During summer 2004, which was relatively cool and wet, the leaves on that branch were fine. This summer, which was hot and dry, the leaves on the damaged branch began to turn red in late July. The process was gradual, so by the end of September, the leaves on that branch were a deep red and just beginning to fall off, but the leaves on the remainder of the tree were still green. I assume that the dry, hot summer was too much for the stressed branch. In addition, this summer some of the pruning sealer that I had sprayed on the damaged branch began flaking off and small pieces of bark began falling off the damaged region, so I sprayed some more sealer around the area. Would you recommend trimming off the damaged branch at the trunk or should I wait to see if it mends itself by next season? I'm concerned about the tree becoming infected and about trimming a branch off such a young tree. (e-mail reference)

A: A maple growing on a site for four years can tolerate the kind of pruning that is needed. The tree wound dressing or sealer was not a good idea because it tends to prevent natural compartmentalization (an oxygen requiring process) from taking place at the site of the wound. Based on what you have told me, I would suggest doing the necessary pruning between January and March.

Q: I have several maple trees on my property, but am having a problem with only one. I noticed that on the underside of the leaves there are green growths on top of or within the veins. Some leaves have so many growths that they actually are shriveling inward. The problem seems to be affecting more than half of the leaves. Is this a disease, insect or something else? Will it affect the health of this beautiful 40-year-old maple? (e-mail reference)

A: These outgrowths or pouches are microscopic eriophyid mites. Their feeding habits cause an overstimulation of plant hairs, which produce the growths known as erinea. The mites commonly are found on silver and sugar maple foliage. In spite of the appearance of some of the leaves, their effect on the tree is minimal. These arthropods come and go. Natural forces, such as weather or predatory mites, mostly control them. Because they cause no harm, spraying is not recommended. Even if it were recommended, the timing would be very difficult.
Enjoy this unique feature of nature, knowing that your trees will be OK.

Q: I have a maple seedling growing in my flowerbed next to the garage. The seedling is near the corner where the garage meets the sidewalk and near the gutter. This area always ices over each winter, so I don’t think the seedling will survive the winter. It’s a nice tree and I do want it to survive. Do I transplant it to where I want the tree to be in the backyard? One of my friends suggested I put it in a pot for the winter. (Fargo, N.D.)

A: You need to make a decision after the tree loses its leaves. Give it plenty of protection with a rose cone over it just before permanent freeze-up occurs or dig it out and transplant it to the permanent location. If you choose to protect it through the winter, then do the transplanting the following spring before leaf-out takes place.

Q: I have an 11-year-old maple tree that has developed a long, vertical gash in its bark. I first noticed it when I saw rainwater flowing along a track that developed in a depression on that side of the tree. The bark became slightly rotted because water was trapped inside. I stripped it to good wood. Is the tree going to recover? Should I plug the gap (inch wide) with tar? The leaves this summer are perfect. (e-mail reference)

A: The tree should recover, but don’t touch the wound with anything resembling a sealer. The tree should form new bark tissue that slowly will roll over the wounded area. You did the right thing in cutting the rotted bark back to fresh wood.

Q: I enjoy your column so much. We planted a dark-leaved maple tree last year. It grew fine and had leaves. It is now early June and it still doesn’t have leaves. When we scrape it with a fingernail, it is green. Will it eventually get leaves and grow? The other question is about a blue hydrangea plant my husband gave me for Mother’s Day. I would like to keep it growing. I plan to put it outside when it is finished flowering. Do I leave it in the pot or plant it in the ground? Would I have to bring it in for the winter or could I put mulch around it? What do I use to keep it a blue color? (Watertown, S.D.)

A: If it doesn’t leaf out in a couple more weeks, I’d say forget it. As for the hydrangea, plant it in the soil and fertilize with aluminum sulfate to maintain the blue color. Mulch it well this fall just as the ground freezes. Cut it back heavily early next spring, before new growth begins.

Q: My Norway maple is about 80 years old. It started to get long splits in it and dripped sap. Wherever the sap gets on the bark, it eventually dies. Half of the main trunk is dead and many splits have occurred. There is a sugar maple very close to the problem tree and just as old. It had a problem where the top of it died. I fertilized it with 10-10-10 and it grew faster than the disease could damage it. It is now doing well. Could you tell me what this disease is and how to save the tree? (e-mail reference)

A: The disease is known as bacterial wetwood or slime flux. The infection originates from the sapwood because of previous injury to the tree. Generally, there is little that can be done except to drill a hole in the tree and insert a copper tube to help drain the sap from the trunk onto the soil. If you had luck fertilizing the sugar maple, give the Norway maple a similar treatment to see if that helps. You have nothing to lose.

Q: Are there maple trees that do not produce seedlings (whirly birds)? I love maple trees, but do not like the mess from the seedlings. (e-mail reference)

A: Many maples are seedless. Go to any nursery and ask for a “male clone” of the species of maple that you want.

Q: I recently moved to an area where I can have my two horses. The area I converted into pasture has about six 10- to 12-year-old red maples in it. Last winter my horses ate the bark off the trees. I pruned what didn’t look good or survive. I can’t seem to find a definitive answer on how to treat the trees. Should I wrap them and then put fencing around them? Should I spray the trees with a deer repellant? Should I cut them down? Do they poison horses? Every time I go to do one thing, someone tells me something different. Do they need sunlight to grow new bark? (Wabasha, Minn.)

A: I strongly suggest putting a fence outside the drip line of the trees so the horses cannot get to the bark or foliage. According to my poison plant references, at least two cases of livestock death involving cattle and horses have been reported in West Virginia. As to the tissue damage where the horses stripped off the bark, I would take a knife and cut back to where the bark still is attached. The trees will heal on their own. You don’t need to wrap the trees or treat them with any deer repellents because the fence should take care of the problem.

Q: I’ve been reading about the problems people are having with their maple trees. None seem to have the problem we have. Our small, green-leafed maple tree is around 35 years old and was doing well until last year, when the leaves didn’t seem to open all the way. The same thing is happening this year. Our son trimmed it and cut off a large branch, but we don’t think that had anything to do with our problem. (e-mail reference)

A: It sounds like the tree has a stem canker that is girdling it or it has armillaria root rot. In either case, the tree is checking out. In essence, your maple tree is taking its last gasps of life using the carbohydrates stored in its stems. Soon the leaves will curl and dry. You might as well plan to replace the tree. Before you do, try to find out what killed it. Take the dead plant to a local nursery or contact the Extension Service agent in your county. If that doesn’t work, send samples of the tree to the local land-grant university plant pathology department for analysis.

Q: A couple of years ago we transplanted a young sugar maple tree from the family farm in Upstate New York. I went out this morning and noticed all the buds except one were nipped off by a rabbit or squirrel. Is there anything I can do to help this tree survive? (Dell Rapids, S.D.)

A: Put some protection around the tree and don’t allow it to become stressed this season. Keep it evenly watered, but not soaked. It should recover. The protection should be a fence or rabbit wire to keep the offending creature out! I’m surprised that the rabbits waited until now to launch their attack. They usually do most of their damage during the winter months.

Q: I have been told that pruned trees cannot bleed to death. However, I just picked up the new issue of “Fine Gardening” that says maples can bleed to death. The writer made the statement that if maples are pruned in late winter, they can bleed to death. I have numerous maples that were pruned about a month ago. They are bleeding a great deal of sap. Your perspective would be greatly appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: That comment, without any controlled, documented research to back it up, is the same as saying the Earth is flat and you will fall off if you travel far enough west. Pruning maples in late winter/early spring has been done for decades, perhaps centuries. I personally have done it to my maples with no adverse effects. The sap flow attracts insects that are looking for carbohydrate rich sources of food, which normally is scarce early in the season. Some of the insects get stuck in the syrupy bleed, which attracts birds that feed on the insects, as well as the flowing sap. Dormant pruning is recommended for two reasons. Branches that need pruning are more visible and the chance of disease spread is reduced greatly. The healing of any pruning wounds is rapid at this time of year, compared with any other period in the growing season, so there is an air-tight case for late winter/early spring pruning. I often tell people that if the bleeding from such trees as maples, birch and walnut bother them, then wait until the leaves have fully expanded before pruning. There should be very little bleeding.

Q: Do you or your readers have any information on growing Japanese maples in zone 4? I know they are meant for zone 5 or higher, but I’m really intrigued by them. I’ve ordered a red Japanese maple from the Arbor Day Society. If nothing else, I plan to grow it in a pot and keep it in my three-season porch over winter. I’m mainly concerned about winter protection. Any help would be appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: Winter protection will be a challenge. You can try locating it in a protected area on your property and completely covered during winter. The plant needs to be established in a planting site where it can stay and not be confined to a container that is moved in and out during the seasonal changes. If anybody has other suggestions, I will post their comments.

Q: I have a maple tree in my yard that, in many places, is leaking what appears to be water. Is this a sign it is dying? Any help will be appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: The leakage is a carbohydrate-based material. The leakage could be due to (depending on where you are located) woodpecker/sapsucker or borer damage or simply slime flux (bacterial wetwood). The difference is the length of time the tree will ooze liquid. If it stops in a few weeks to months, it was caused by shallow wounds. If it persists for the whole year, then it is an infection of the inner sapwood or heartwood. There is no effective treatment for this problem, but to put your mind at rest, it is common in maples. You might want to have an International Society of Arborists certified arborist inspect the tree. If it turns out to be borers, it could be the end of your maple if it isn’t brought under control.

Q: I need help choosing plants that will thrive under a large maple tree. The roots of the tree extend above the soil surface. Last winter the deer ate the lamium that was growing in the area. I did not have any success replanting the lamium last summer. My assumption is that the area needs additional soil. I am concerned about killing the tree by loading on more dirt. (Fargo, N.D.)

A: A couple of inches of good, sandy loam over the roots will not hurt anything. Add enough dirt to make a decent shallow planting area under the tree. Deer repellents abound in our area of the state, but it takes a mix of repellents to work at deterring these persistent pests. Dried blood, smelly soap, human hair, predator urine, blinking and rotating lights, and hot pepper spray are a few of the products available. Visit your local garden supply outlet to see the broad selection available. Daffodils usually are left alone by the bunny population because of the plant's poisonous nature, so I’m assuming that the deer are at least that smart. You also could try putting out feed stations for the deer to keep them from your ornamentals. Fencing is another solution, but that doesn’t sound like an option in your case.

Q: We have a maple tree that is about 50 years old that we acquired when we purchased our home. It has been doing well for four years, but we have noticed that a few branches have turned completely white and are dying. The branches look like they’ve been painted. (e-mail reference)

A: It sounds like it could be a heavy scale infestation. I would get in touch with an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist to spray the tree now and next spring before the leaves come out. This destructive insect can be controlled partially with Malathion or light horticultural oil followed by a lime-sulfur spray in the spring while dormant. You don’t want to lose this tree if it can be helped.

Q: I have a huge maple tree in my yard. It was planted about 45 years ago. The leaves used to be a beautiful red color, but the last few years the leaves have been green. Now some branches have a very pale color. (Moorhead, Minn.)

A: The problem could be anything from root rot, vascular disease and borers to cankers or more. I suggest you contact Kelly Melquist, an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist, at (701) 729-6899. He has been working for decades to save trees around our region and has done a commendable job.

Q: I planted a Northwood maple tree a few years ago. It was doing fine, but now most of the tree has developed brown spots, especially on the edges. Some are almost all brown. I have some Daconil I used on a different tree and wonder if it’s too late to use on the maple this year. Should I use Miracid? Also, I would like to roto-till. How deep can I go without hurting the root system? I would probably mulch with sawdust. For winter, can we cover the tree with sawdust? (Becker County, Minn.)

A: Keep the roto-tiller away from the base of the tree! It could cause irreversible damage. It sounds like the tree was planted too deeply or is getting too much water. Reset the tree, back off on the watering or both! There is no problem using sawdust if it was composted. If it is raw sawdust, you will have chlorosis problems. You can correct that with additional applications of nitrogen fertilizer. Covering them with composted sawdust would be acceptable, but protect the plants from voles and other varmints with wire hardware cloth.

Q: Is there a variety of amur maple that does not produce helicopter seeds? I have about 15 of them that I prune weekly to maintain a mushroom shape. One has died and I need to replace it, but the varieties I see on the market have seeds. Mine do not flower, but turn a medium red in the fall. (e-mail reference)

A: Emerald elf and flame are not listed as having fruit. Check with a nursery to see if this is true. If you cannot find anything, root some cuttings from existing trees.

Q: I have a maple tree in my yard and the bottom leaves are already turning red. I have heard that it may be caused by stress. I have two male golden retrievers that use the tree as their fire hydrant. Also, my wife sprayed some grass killer around it, but the instructions said it was safe for trees. Otherwise, everything is pretty normal. (Minneapolis, Minn.)

A: There could be at least half-dozen things causing the tree to go into fall color such as compacted soil, wet and cold soil, root rot, a vascular disease or borers. Any grass killer can have a negative impact on a tree. The tree may have been planted to deep or it may be suffering from air pollution of some kind or spray drift from an adjacent property. Contact an ISA certified arborist to see if there is a way to cure the problem before it is too late.

Q: Our dog was leashed to a maple tree. My children forgot to get her and she clawed some of the bark off the tree. What can I do to save the tree? (e-mail reference)

A: Shame on the children! I hope their dog has forgiven them, they usually do so quicker than humans do each other. It should heal if the tree was not girdled. Go to where she clawed and tidy up the scratches and remove all loose bark with a sharp knife. Keep the tree vigorous and keep the dog away from it.

Q: My maple tree is at least 18-years-old and appeared healthy until this spring. It leafed-out beautifully, but now its leaves are falling and there are black streaks on the bark. I don't see any bugs or worms on it. (e-mail reference)

A: Have an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist inspect the tree. My guesses could be way off the mark.

Q: I have red bumps on the leaves of my maple tree. Do you know what this is and how to fix it? (e-mail reference)

A: Those red bumps are caused by a small mite that lays eggs in the developing tissue early in the spring. The bumps you see are the larvae hatching and starting to feed. There’s nothing you can do about it, but the damage is mostly cosmetic and not lethal. It usually shows up for a couple of years. Weather extremes or natural predators usually take care of the problem.

Q: We planted an autumn blaze maple last fall. It came in great this spring, but now the leaves are turning brown-red, almost as if it was fall. Is this an iron deficiency problem? What can I do to save this tree? (e-mail reference)

A: Check the planting depth. The top of the rootball should be just under the soil.You might have an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist check the tree to see if a more accurate diagnosis can be made.

Q: I have a three-year-old silver maple tree. The first two years it leafed green, but this year all the leaves are rust colored. The only green is on the underside veins. Any ideas? (e-mail reference)

A: I'm betting that what you are calling rust is really an erineum gall mite infestation. The surface of the leaf has a velvet-like texture or a patchy felt appearance. It is nothing to worry about because it will not harm the tree. There is nothing you can do about it. They will likely have a two or three year cycle and then disappear for awhile.

Q: I have a tree in my yard that has new leaves, but they are starting to fall off. The leaves do not seem to have any type of bug or fungus. I believe the tree is some type of Maple. This also happened last year. (e-mail reference)

A: The problem could be caused by a fluctuation in soil moisture levels. If the tree is important to you, I would suggest getting in touch with an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist to find out what the problem is. Often during dry spells trees will drop leaves as a means of conserving moisture. Trees may also drop leaves after a dry period is broken by rain or an irrigation event.

Q: The leaves of my maple trees have multiple tiny little bumps on them. The bumps don’t seem to impair the growth on this or any other (varieties) trees on my grounds. Do you have any suggestions as to what this is and how to rectify it? (e-mail reference)

A: Those bumps are known as bladder or nipple gall growths. They are caused by mite larvae that feed inside the leaf tissue. The rash or bump type of growth you are seeing is the result of this feeding activity. The only damage to the tree is cosmetic. There is no need for treatment, so enjoy one of nature's interesting associations.

Q: I have a red maple that was perfectly fine last year, but this spring has no leaves or buds. What could have happened? Can I save it? (E-mail reference)

A: You probably can’t save it. When a tree suddenly dies, it could be from a lightening strike or from developing a vascular disease that acted almost as fast as lightening. You could have an ISA certified arborist come out and inspect the tree to be sure it is dead and possibly find out what killed it.

Q: My red maple still has an abundance of last fall's leaves on it. During the winter, I assumed that it had died because of this; however, I now see that it has healthy buds. It's a small tree and I don’t know how old it is. Even odder, the year before, it was the first of my trees to loose its leaves. Is my tree about to die? (Canby, Minn.)

A: Probably not. The leaves remaining on the tree did not get into sufficient dormancy last fall to cause leaf abscission. In other words, it was in a less hardened-off state than it could have been. From what you said, it sounds like the tree made it through.

Q: I have a maple that has holes around it. I see woodpeckers there all the time. What can I do to protect the tree? (E-mail reference)

A: Try to annoy the woodpeckers in some way by using aluminum foil, scare balloons, tanglefoot near the tree parts where they like to make holes, or by spraying them with a garden hose.

Q: I have a 10-year-old autumn blaze maple that has bark peeling off the trunk. It looks like something is eating the bark. The peeling is on the south side of the tree. What can I do to protect this wonderful tree? (E-mail reference)

A: Most likely nothing is eating the bark. What you are seeing is weather damage from fluctuating temperatures. This causes the wood and bark to expand and contract resulting in the bark peeling off.

Q: I have a larger Norway maple in my backyard. I noticed this past spring that the tree had a long split from the top of the roots to where the first set of large branches spread out. It's about four to five feet in length. I talked to a local tree person who said many maples had their bark split because of the severe winter we had and the frost and thawing affects that followed. Later in the spring, another long split in the bark occurred parallel to the first one and almost as long. Another smaller split occurred on the opposite side of the tree. The tree is otherwise healthy. It had great foliage this summer and a natural fall leaf drop. Is there truly nothing I can do? Is this tree on its way out? I see other, larger, older maples that have such cracks and they are doing fine. (E-mail reference)

A: Frost cracks are common on many trees when there are sharp, rapid fluctuations in temperature and sun exposure. You could wrap the tree every fall with craft paper from the nursery, which would protect the tree from the sun on the south or west side, where frost cracks occur. Don't push the tree into rapid growth by over fertilizing and resist pruning the lower branches on that side of the tree. Most wounds are healed after a few normal winters because the trees compartmentalize the wound. Most otherwise healthy trees will do a pretty good job of defending against environmental problems, especially established ones. It is toughest on young, recently planted trees.

Q: We've lived in our house for about eight years. With the house came a garden with a well established Japanese maple. This year, some branches are dead looking and some leaves on the rest of the tree are beginning to turn brown. The trunk and bark has started to tear. It seems to be dry underneath the dead-looking branches. I'm assuming this little guy won’t make it. Do you know what might have killed it or can it be saved? (E-mail reference)

A: It is unfortunate to lose such a beautiful tree. Not knowing where you live, it is hard for me to give you accurate recommendations as to what may have caused the decline. Japanese maple declines more from poor cultural practices than from insects and diseases. This is a species, depending on the cultivar, that needs a lot of attention early on. It needs high organic matter soil, good drainage, ample moisture and a lot of care to bridge it through times of extended drought or excessive heat. That doesn't mean that your tree couldn't be succumbing to a root rot fungus or being attacked by borers. I would encourage you to contact a certified International Society of Arboriculture arborist to inspect your tree to find out what the problem is. The arborist will be able to tell you what corrective action to take to reverse it or avoid it in the future.

Q: Last night our maple tree was hit by lightening or high winds. One of the big branches was broken and split up the main part of the tree. We trimmed the branch as best we could. There appears to be a black mark on the tree that could be from lightening. Should we put something on the bare part or just let it go? Will it survive? (E-mail reference)

A: I’m sorry to say that the answer is no to both of your questions. If the tree was indeed hit by lightening, it is done for. Some trees show it faster than others.

Q: We have two autumn blaze maples in our front yard that have developed little, black spots on the trunks. The spots look like mold. Is there anything we can do? One of the trees has a trunk that is split open near the ground and doesn't look too healthy. The trees have continued to grow quite well despite the problem. The leaves and branches all look normal. (E-mail reference)

A: It could be anything. I suggest having a certified arborist come out and check the trees if they are that important to you. The arborist can recommend a treatment if one is needed or do it for you.

Q: I have an autumn blaze maple that I planted with a tree spade three years ago. This year the leaves are progressively getting more and more yellow while the arteries within the leaves remain green. The nursery instructed me to fertilize with iron which I have applied on two occasions this year. I also applied yellow leaf sickness capsules using a root feeder. The last application was Friday, the first approximately five weeks ago. It seems as though the tree is reacting slowly to the treatment. Is there any hope for this beautiful tree? Can I do anything else? Should I continue with more treatments this year? If that doesn’t work, what shade tree do you suggest that is hardy, grows fast and will add beauty to my front yard? Hopefully your input will give me some hope that the tree will survive! (E-mail reference)

A: Tree spade operators will not like my response. You would be better off planting a younger tree that has all the roots intact. It will grow faster, have fewer problems and will be a heck of a lot cheaper. I have found anecdotally that trees of the same species that are planted with all their roots intact from a container, such as a 10 gallon pot, will attain the size of the spaded tree in a few years and be healthier at that point. Typically, in spaded trees, anywhere from one third to one half of the root system is left in the soil which is mostly the part of the root system that is responsible for nutrient and water uptake. They arrive at the new site looking great above ground but when it comes to being able to absorb the soil nutrients, many are unable to do so, and crown die-back becomes evident over the next few years. That being said, I have to also say in defense of some spade tree nurseries, they realize this problem exists and follow a practice of regular in-site root pruning to develop a complete root system within the tree spade ball. Those trees then have an excellent chance of growing. Your autumn blaze maple is a good selection. I encourage you to stick with it.

Q: I have four maple trees in my yard that are very large and doing well. The exception is a tree on the east side. Some leaves have a very yellow color while others are tinted brown. I have done some looking through the materials I have but am not sure what it could be although it does look a little like vertcilium wilt. Could it possibly be lacking nutrients? (Lisbon, N.D.)

A: Sounds like the terminal phases of iron chlorosis. Once the trees start down that slope of iron deficiency, which some are genetically disposed to, there is no return. The tree should be removed immediately or in the near future.

Q: I need to move and replant a lace leaf Japanese maple tree. Can you give me instructions? Is it safe to replant now? (E-mail reference)

A: No to both questions. I would suggest moving it when dormant and by someone with experience in moving such trees. The ball size needs to be carefully calibrated to the aerial part of the tree, most particularly the caliper of the main trunk.

Q: Last year I bought two maples which were supposed to be Norway maples however one came out green while the other is red. Can you tell me what the red one is? It was green last year. (E-mail reference)

A: It could be that the new growth is simply manifesting the red coloration which will change as the foliage matures. Or, you may have been given one of the red leaf cultivars such as Schwedler's or crimson king. If you did, lucky you!

Q: I have two large maple trees in my yard. The seeds fell all over the yard so they are growing everywhere. I’m pulling them up but they are in the grass. Is there anything I can use to kill the seeds and not hurt my grass, flowers or other trees? (E-mail reference)

A: Find something else to worry about. The maple seedlings will die out with normal lawn care -- mowing, playing, etc. Any broadleaf herbicide will take care of them but I don't like making herbicide recommendations for something that can be controlled easily without its use.

Q: We have several maples in our yard that are about 10 to 15 years old. We need to do some major pruning of the lower branches. When is the best time to do this so the tree won't die? (E-mail reference)

A: Maples are known as "bleeders" when pruned early in the season and still dormant. This fact usually upsets most homeowners when they see the excessive sap flow pouring out of pruning wounds. It is messy and attracts some insects, but doesn't kill the tree. Assuming the tree is otherwise healthy, I suggest pruning the plant after full leaf-out and expansion of the foliage. Minimal to no bleeding will take place and it will still be early enough in the growing season for the wounds to begin complete compartmentalization and healing.

Q: I have a question about some varieties of maple trees that are available. Could you please give me some guidance on which to plant? I did look through my master gardener’s book and it appears that NDSU has done some field testing on three of the four. The area that I am looking at is on the east side of our house. We have a shelter belt on the east side of our farm and there is a narrow shelter belt on the south side. Our quonset is also to the south of where I would like to plant the trees. To the north is the barn and another large shelter belt. In my opinion there is plenty of protection for the trees. There are also no over head power lines. The trees we are looking at are; autumn blaze maple, autumn spire red maple, fall fiesta sugar maple and Northwood red maple. I would like something that will offer a lot of color and also hardy to this area. The autumn blaze maple, autumn spire red maple and the fall fiesta sugar maple were the trees that were listed in the handout that we received, which mentioned that they were hardy east of highway 281 in North Dakota. I live 10 miles south east of Sheyenne, North Dakota which puts us east of 281. (Sheyenne, N.D.)

A: They should make it. Dr. Herman here at NDSU is very thorough in his evaluation of tree cultivars, generally giving them about a 10-year trial period. If he gives them a green light, they should perform to your satisfaction unless a major calamity occurs with Mother Nature.

Q: I have a lopsided amur maple. It has branches radiating out approximately 270 degrees around its center with a missing area at 90 degrees (imagine a pie with 1/4 of it missing). Is it possible to trim a branch and graft it onto the bare trunk? ( Fargo, N.D.)

A: Not in this lifetime – sorry. There are techniques known as T-budding that are carried out on what is known as "lining out" stock, but I cannot see how that, or anything else, could work on a mature tree. Can you place a statue at the empty spot so it looks like the tree is growing around it?

Q: My uncle creates the most wonderful wood inlay and prizes the rare pink-colored wood you sometimes find in a Manitoba maple. He would like to know if the source of the color comes from a fungus or a viral infection of some sort and if this harms the tree in any way. (Manitoba, Canada)

A: Interesting! But, my colleagues and I have no idea what causes the pink wood that your uncle finds. There is no mention of it in the literature that we have available. Sorry I cannot be a help!

Q: I have an Autumn Blaze Maple that has black spots on the leaves. Do you know what this might be? (E-mail reference)

A: It could be one of three diseases. Tar spot, which is spread from fallen leaves onto the newly emerging foliage. Control by raking up all fallen leaves and/or spraying with Bordeaux mixture during leaf emergence. The other two, phyllosticta and septoria, since you didn't mention premature defoliation, have the same basic approach for control: sanitation and timely spraying with Bordeaux mixture.

Q: We planted a couple of blaze maple trees last year and due to the windy conditions in our area, we braced them with rope. Not realizing we were harming the trees in any way, we left the ropes on over the winter into spring of this year. A few weeks ago my husband took the ropes off and we were horrified to see the deep gouges in the tree trunks. On one tree, I would say the gouge is probably a half inch or so. My question is, will these trees survive and is there anything at all that we can do at this point? I guess we're inclined to just leave them alone and see how they are next spring. Some of the leaves on one tree turned yellow with black edges earlier in the summer. My guess is that they weren't able to get the nutrients they needed. My second question is regarding our lawn. We burned out some weeds in several spots last year and put in grass seed. However, the grass doesn't match the rest of the lawn. We now have darker green patches of lawn in those areas. Is there anything that we can do next spring to even out the coloration of the entire lawn? Thanks so much for any help that you can give us. ( Moorhead, M.N.)

A: It is a good thing you finally took the ropes off the trees. That is one of the reasons I am against tying and staking trees, plus a lot more! The lawn will not even out with fertilization. What has happened is that there are different cultivars of grass (likely Kentucky blue) that are distinctly different in color than what was originally planted. Your original lawn could have been a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye, and creeping red fescue, and the spot seeding could have just been the bluegrass. If you can, get the same seed that was applied over the burned out spots, and after a good core aeration and power raking, sow that seed over the entire lawn. That should even out the coloration somewhat.

Q: I have an autumn blaze maple that has grown rapidly since I planted it five years ago. The trunk is about 8 inches in diameter at the base. This August, after a storm delivered several inches of rain, a crack developed in the main trunk from the ground to about the 6-foot level. Two much shorter cracks developed on the opposite side. Now these cracks appear to be forming callous tissue. A few weeks later another storm dropped several inches of rain and two more cracks about two feet long formed on the main trunk in adjacent areas. What's going on? (Minneapolis, M.N.)

A: A thing called excessive turgor pressure. It’s kind of like how we feel after eating more than we should, except the tree can split and heal itself although it is not a recommended practice. There’s nothing you can do about it except to monitor the tree's condition and make sure that rot doesn't set in. Simply allow the callous tissue to form.

Q: I have a Japanese maple tree about 2 years old. I had contractors that did some waterproofing work around the brick work of the tree. The leaves are starting to brown and dry up. The contractors must have spilled some of the waterproofing material in the soil and the tree is drying. What should I do? (E-mail reference)

A: Without knowing what the material is, I suggest a generous watering of the tree, several times and hope that leaches the toxin beyond the root zone. I would certainly let the contractor know of your displeasure, and see if you cannot get some kind of compensation should it need replacing. They are beautiful trees that shouldn't be wasted like that.

Q: I came across your website in my search for what I thought would be a common and easily resolved problem with my 9-year-old maple. The bark has milky white patches all over. The patches vary in size but range from 2 to 7 or 8 square inches. The aesthetics are not bothersome, but the tree is about two weeks behind in leafing out. It is budding, but seems sparse. Any idea? (Stillwater, Minn.)

A: Trees everywhere in the upper Midwest are behind. The milky white patches concern me a little. It is probably a Norway maple, and could be troubled by borers (not likely) or by sapsuckers. The sapsuckers punch holes in the trunks of various trees, and the milky exudate you are seeing is simply the sap and usually causes no harm. The tree will heal naturally. Just be patient with the leafing out this year.

Q: We were considering putting in an Amur maple (bush variety) and were told that they produce the seeds typical of some maples, which we do not want. Others have told us they have the Amur maple bush and have no seeds. Are there different varieties and which one would you recommend for good fall color and no seeds (if there is such an animal)? (E-mail reference)

A: The Amur maple produces seeds that are very ornamental in many cases, but never a nuisance. I've had one growing in my back yard for over 15 years, and while it does produce very colorful samaras in mid to late summer, they have never been a problem with sprouting in flower beds or the lawn. That being said, I have seen this species without seeds. You might look into the compact forms: 'Compactum', 'Durand Dwarf', 'Emerald Elf' and 'Red Rhapsody'. The latter is not a dwarf, but a full size for the species, with knock-out red fall color. I am not guaranteeing those I have named are seedless, but they are not touted for their showy seeds.

Q: We have a hedge of amur maples that is about 40 feet long. They have grown to about 10 feet and the new growth each year is almost impossible to trim as they are also wide at the top and it is difficult to reach the middle of the hedge with a ladder. We would like to trim the hedge to a height of 6 feet. Would this damage the hedge? If the hedge can be trimmed to this height, what would be the best time of the year to do this serious amount of pruning? (Dickinson, N.D.)

A: If it isn't snowing in Dickinson today, get out and do it ASAP. You want to get this done before the new growth comes out. You might consult with Craig Armstrong, the city forester, about how, specifically, to go about this. He's a good man and knows his stuff!

Q: We recently purchased a beautiful Amur maple for our backyard. We have two dogs, and I want to make sure that the flowers, seeds and fruit produced by the tree are not toxic to animals. (E-mail reference)

A: They are not - don't worry and enjoy!

Q: I have a beautiful Autumn Blaze maple that is quite large (planted in the spring of 1995). The tree has grown very fast and always looked healthy. This summer the bark split open from near the base up to where the first branches start. The split is quite large and I am worried I could lose the tree in the future. What caused this to happen and is there anything I can do? The tree continues to appear healthy and is turning brilliant red now.

A: I am not sure what would have caused the split, but I can give you some possibilities.

A recent pruning may have exposed the bark that was shaded to direct or reflective sunlight on the south or west side. The split may have occurred in winter from the same effect of sunlight (known as "sun scald"). A "frost crack" could have developed from widely fluctuating temperatures. A sudden surge of growth could have taken place after an extended dry period was broken by a heavy rain. Last, although not likely, lightening could have struck the tree causing the split. If that were the case, the tree would be dead. The tree will generally heal itself. New bark tissue should be forming along the split which will compartmentalize the wound. You can aid it by wrapping the damaged area in burlap or some other protective material that is available at local nurseries.

Q: We have built a ranch style house in a new development without a tree. I understand the city will plant a Fall Gold Ash on our berm next May. Please suggest a couple of trees for our yard and some bushes. We would like the trees in the back to shade our west side patio. Also, we are into color, especially reds. (E-mail reference, Grand Forks, N.D.)

A: I know just the perfect tree for shading your patio on the west side, one that I planted in my back yard to shade my patio. 'Embers' Amur maple gets about 20 feet tall and about 15 feet wide, has beautiful red fall color, and bright red samaras or fruits in mid summer. Another cultivar that is very similar is 'Red Wing' Amur maple. Other trees and shrubs I like are 'Redmond' linden, 'Heritage' river birch, and several viburnums -- the Nannyberry (V. lentago), Blackhaw (V. prunifolium), Arrowwood (V. dentatum, more of a hedge type plant) and finally, the American cranberrybush viburnum (V. trilobum). If you want size, then stay with the viburnum species (8 to 12 feet). If that is too big, then get the compact form (V.t. 'Compactum') which tops out at about 6 feet.

Q: I am looking for an ornamental tree to plant in my landscape (full sun) that will only get to about 20 to 25 feet tall. I had thought of a mountain ash but my research shows it is susceptible to fire blight. (I really like the looks of this tree but don't want a headache.) I have also thought of maybe a crabapple, but they have a lot of suckers, don't they? (E-mail reference, Glyndon, Minn.)

A: One of my favorite trees is the Amur maple. It meets your height requirements, has a beautiful fall color, and is virtually disease and problem free. Another very similar tree is the Tatarian maple. They are so similar, in fact, that they often cross breed naturally resulting in seedlings that have characteristics of both species. Be sure to get a named cultivar of either of these trees. I don't think you can go wrong with either one!

Q: I need to plant one more shade tree in my back yard hoping it will eventually shade our patio. I have an Autumn Blaze maple nearby which has done beautifully. Can you suggest another tree that would grow relatively fast, but also a nice compliment to the maple? (Barney, N.D., e-mail)

A: If you like the Autumn Blaze, why not go with another? The only thing better than a single beauty are two of them! Silver Queen (another silver maple) could also be used, but I like the Autumn Blaze better. If you want more of a patio tree--getting to about 20 to 25 feet tall--the Amur Maple cultivars are fantastic for that purpose. Whatever you do, stay away from the poplars!

Q: I understand you like the Autum Blaze tree. Would you tell me more about it? Is it easy to grow, and does it take special care? Are they fast growers? We lost one of our shade trees and another one isn’t long for this world. They would be planted on the west side of our house. We would like a fast grower that would last forever, not just a few years. We live in Davenport, Iowa, Zone 5. (E-mail reference, Davenport, I.owa)

A: Yes, Autumn Blaze is a favorite of mine. It is an inter-specific hybrid between between red and silver maples. It is fast growing, alkaline soil tolerant, and has beautiful red fall color. The canopy shape is oval and stays pretty much that way throughout it's life. It will get to be about 50 feet tall and about 35 feet wide. Since you live in zone 5, hardiness is no problem, as it is hardy even in the fringes of eastern North Dakota in zone 4. You should be able to find it in any quality nursery or garden center outlet. It might be listed under the cultivar name of Acer 'Jeffersted', after the gentleman in Ohio who developed it. Autumn Blaze is a trademarked name. Given just normal care in planting and maintenance, the tree should easily outlive the occupants of the house. I would strongly suggest that you purchase a container-grown specimen that can be handled by one or two people. I'm not a big believer in tree-spaded planted trees for residential landscapes. The investment is too high, and the plants often die out over a period of many years, whereas young, smaller trees take off and adapt to the site quite easily.

Q: I live in Georgia and recently visited Michigan, where I noticed a maple that had purple leaves almost to black. Can you tell me the variety of maple, and will it grow below the Mason-Dixon Line? (E-mail reference, Georgia)

A: The tree you saw was likely the Crimson King maple, and unfortunately, it will not grow in the South, due to the heat intensity. Even up north, when we get extended periods of heat stress, those trees don't appear too happy. Sorry!

Q: We live in Wisconsin and in a recent windstorm lost our lovely 100-year-old maple. The loss of this tree is quite sad, as it completely shaded our back yard. It stood about 70 feet tall. The tree service recommended that we remove the tree as a large branch had fallen on the house and damaged quite a large section of our roof. As part of the tree removal service, they ground out the stump. They said we may not be able to replant a tree there because of the roots. My question is whether or not we could plant another maple on the same site. Could you recommend a fast growing type of maple that you think might work out? We miss our tree! (E-mail reference, Wisconsin)

A: Yes, you can plant another tree there, but I wouldn't suggest the silver maple which is the fastest growing of the maple family. Being softwooded, and tending to develop narrow crotch angles which break easily in windstorms, I'm afraid I would be recommending something that is more a liability than an asset. This is a generalization for all fast growing trees. They tend to break up in windstorms or under heavy snow loads easier than the slower growing ones. Sugar and Norway maples would be better choices, and once established past the first year or so will put on decent growth. Other choices might be white or green ash, American linden, a whole family of oaks, hickory, hackberry or one of the DED resistant elms. Whatever you plant, make sure that fresh soil is in the planting hole, and not just the sawdust from the stump and roots. This can be soil from another place on your property, not anything you have to purchase or haul in.

Q: The tag on a tree we bought says it’s an Emerald Green Maple, yet the picture on the tag does not look like this kind of leaf on the tree. What do you think? Is this a good choice for our area? (Jamestown, N.D.)

A: I identified your leaf before I saw the tag, and yes, you have the right tree. The Emerald Lustre® or ‘Pond’ is a cultivar of the Norway maple, one of Bailey Nursery’s finest selections for vigorous growth and good form. Don’t fertilize after Aug. 1 and don’t keep it too moist going into the fall, so it will harden off adequately going into winter. You’ve picked a good tree and I wish you success with it.

Q: I have two large maples that seeded naturally about 30 years ago. I have a problem because they produce huge amounts of seed, which clogs up the eaves troughs of my neighbors to such an extent that some of them are experiencing water problems. I have started getting complaints about this. I like the trees and do not want to have to get rid of them, mainly because of the pleasure they give me, but also because it would be expensive because of their proximity to houses. Is there some type of chemical control I can use, through injection into the bark or by spraying? I know that apple growers can control seed production by such methods. If not, do you have any other solutions? (E-mail reference)

A: No sprays, sorry. But you can tell your neighbors that they can install screening on their gutters to keep the seeds and leaves out. We've done it at my own house. I would never even consider taking a tree down for that reason! Stuff is going to get into gutters unless you live in an open prairie with no trees around. Gutter screen is inexpensive and easy to install.

Q: We would like to know how to start some maple trees from seed. We have a beautiful old maple tree in our farmyard which we guess is a Norway maple and seems to be well adapted to this area. We have gathered a number of seeds this spring and are wondering if it is possible to start some seedlings and what would be the best way to do this. (Centerville, S.D.)

A: If it is Norway maple, you need to stratify the seed in moist peat for 90 to 120 days at about 41 degrees F. This can be done in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator. This species can also be rooted in mid-June by taking semi-softwood cuttings, dipping them in a rooting hormone and placing them under an intermittent mist system with bottom heat.

Q: I am looking for suggestions for a backyard shade tree that will be fast growing and provide some nice fall color. Recently I planted an Autumn Blaze maple and would like something that will complement it. I also plan to plant an Amur maple hedge and a weeping willow. Any suggestions? ( Bismarck, N.D.)

A: How about an 'Autumn Splendor' Ohio buckeye?

Q: I have a bloodleaf maple tree that is 10 years old. Last fall the leaves on one half of the tree turned brown and rolled in prematurely while the other half had brilliant foliage into the fall. This spring, the half of the tree that retained late foliage has beautiful red leaves while the other half is nothing more than limbs. Some of the limbs are a healthy red color while still others look dead. Toward the base of the tree, new leaves are starting to appear. What would your educated guess be as to what is happening to this tree? Should I prune off the dead limbs now? (E-mail reference)

A: The prognosis doesn't look good. It has been devastated by either canker disease or borers. It is important that you get the cause identified by someone locally before doing anything else. If the new leaves coming from the base are the same color as the original bloodleaf, then you may have a chance; if they are not, then you are better off just digging the tree out. It is a shame to lose a tree like that after 10 years.

Q: We recently had two 40 foot black walnut trees removed that were about 15 feet apart. We would like to plant a blaze maple next to the site of one of the black walnut trees. Do you know if the blaze maple will grow on the site, or might it be impacted by the black walnut toxins? (E-mail reference)

A: Good question. There has never been any documented research showing the allelopathic effects of black walnut on anything other than members of the tomato family. You will have a greater allelopathy on the tree you plant if you allow any turfgrass sod to grow within 12 inches of the trunk of the tree you are intending to plant. I would say go ahead and plant the maple.

Q: Do you have any information on stating when and how to trim young trees, especially silver maple and cottonwood? (Webster, S.D.)

A: Refer to the NDSU Extension Service publication titled "Pruning Trees and Shrubs" (H-1036). Pruning should have been done earlier in the spring, but now would be OK. You should have some sap flow, but it is nothing to worry about.

Q: While visiting my son in southern Minnesota I noticed something strange about his sugar maple. The bark is peeling off in rather small pieces, leaving the tree trunk sort of an orange color. The weather has been really dry this summer in this area. Could this be a factor in the condition? (Breckenridge, Minn.)

A: Bark loss and leaf discoloration during environmental stress is not uncommon. Generally, your son has nothing to worry about, unless of course, the drought continues! Encourage your son to apply ample water to the root system of the tree prior to winter freeze-up. This will help the tree survive the winter and get off to a good start next spring.

Q: We want to plant a couple of backyard shade trees next spring, probably basswood or ash. In a recent column you spoke of Autumn Blaze maple. I am not familiar with this tree. How might it compare overall with ash or basswood?

Also, last fall I put in a grape. It really grew this year, but no blossoms. Do you need two? Should I cut it down for winter? (Aneta, N.D.)

A: The Autumn Blaze maple has striking fall color--red to orange,whereas the ash has yellow only and the linden has none. As far as dependability goes, you won't go wrong with any of them.

I assume you planted a Beta grape. If so, there is no need to do anything. Anything else needs protection by laying the vine over in a trench.

Q: I need to plant one more shade tree in my back yard hoping it will eventually shade our patio. I have an Autumn Blaze maple nearby which has done beautifully. Can you suggest another tree that would grow relatively fast, but also a nice compliment to the maple? (Barney, N.D., e-mail)

A: If you like the Autumn Blaze, why not go with another? The only thing better than a single beauty are two of them! Silver Queen (another silver maple) could also be used, but I like the Autumn Blaze better. If you want more of a patio tree--getting to about 20 to 25 feet tall--the Amur Maple cultivars are fantastic for that purpose. Whatever you do, stay away from the poplars!

Q: I have been trying to grow any kind of maple tree without any success at all. Is there a certain type of soil required, or is it our climate? I have tried planting in the spring and in the fall, but they always die out.

When can I apply Roundup or weed killer to my tulip bed? Do I have to wait until all the tulips are dried up? (e-mail)

A: I would guess that the Amur or Tartarin maples would be the best choice. Or, if you are really desperate, you could try the boxelder maple--that grows just about anywhere! If none of these three have been tried, I would suggest giving them a shot. I suspect that you have tried silver maples in the past. They are very sensitive to high soil pH that exists in your area--and most others across the state.

Yes, your tulips need to completely die back before using any Roundup in the area. They should be close to that stage by now, with all the warm weather we've had.

Q: I have a Crimson King maple tree that I planted in March, and the leaves are getting a brownish color covering most of the leaf. Could you tell me what is wrong with it? (Lake City, S.D.)

A: Unfortunately, our prairie environment in the Dakotas is not kind to Crimson King maples—a cultivar of Norway maple. Our alkaline soil conditions and weather extremes make these poor choices to use in the landscape.

The root system—the entire tree, in fact—is showing site incompatibility. There is no recommendation I can make that will improve the situation. I suggest removing the tree and replacing it with something else. Sorry about the bad news. 

Q: What can I do about red spots on our young maple tree? (Dent, Minn.)

A: Nothing! Enjoy the mosaic that the eriophyid mites have created on your silver maple. They cause no harm, and there is no effective spray for them.

Q: We built several 18-inch square planter boxes on our new deck. We are wondering if we could plant trees in them to provide us with shade on our deck. Also can you please give me some ideas of some good shade trees? (Stirum, N.D.)

A: You are better off using the 18-inch planters for flowers rather than woody plants. They are simply too small to provide adequate root mass for proper support, water and nutrients.

I urge consideration of planting trees like the Amur maple (Acer girnala), Tatarian maple (Acer tatarical) and possibly the Autumn Splendor Ohio buckeye just off the sunny side of the deck. With the buckeye, the nuts and husks may be a problem, and they will for certain attract squirrels. Either plant it 10 to 15 feet from the deck to keep from getting hit with the nuts, or select another tree if you can't stand squirrels. If neither bother you, then go for it, as the maroon fall color is outstanding and the creamy yellow flowers are attractive.

I hope these suggestions solve the problem. Here are the plant specs: Ohio buckeye (height—20 to 40 feet, width—20 to 30 feet), Amur maple (height—15 to 20 feet, width—15 to 18 feet) and Tatarian maple (height—18 to 20 feet, width—18 to 20 feet.)

Q: Enclosed are some branches from my 6-year-old maple tree, which seems to be dying. Can you tell me what is wrong with it? (Deer Creek, M.N.)

A: I strongly suspect either flood damage or an elevated water table is causing the death of your tree. When leaf margins brown up like they have on your tree, it is a strong certainty that the root system is experiencing anaerobic conditions. You might try aerating around the drip line of the tree, but I doubt that will save it at this point.

Q: I am sending a sample of an 3-year-old autumn leaf maple. It seems like the leaves are drying and the tree doesn't have much new growth. I have been told it needs iron, so I have been feeding it with iron and fertilizer. Can you help me? (Napoleon, N.D.)

A: The symptoms on the leaf samples indicate a strong possibility of iron chlorosis. It could also be the result of planting too deeply or poor drainage.

If it is possible to move it, do so. The tree certainly isn't going to survive where it currently is. When you move it to a new site, set the tree so that the "knob" or graft union between the scion and root stock are level with the surrounding soil. Be sure a circular area of about 2 feet is clean or clear of turfgrass around the trunk. Water in with a solution of Miracle-Gro or Miracid when planting.

If the tree dies, you will at least have the satisfaction of giving it your best shot at trying to save it!

Q: Enclosed is a sample of grass from my lawn that is a darker green than the rest, and it seems to be taking over the other grass. I would like to get rid of it, but I'm not sure how. Also, I have an old stump from a lilac bush I sawed off to the ground to try and prevent suckers, but it hasn't worked. There are also suckers on my maple tree. What can I do to get rid of these? (Hillsboro, N.D.)

A: The samples you sent were definitely not crabgrass or quackgrass, but annual ryegrass. This, and crabgrass, are not worth controlling at this time of year. Next spring, around the time lilacs flower in your area, apply a premergent herbicide listed for crabgrass control from the enclosed circular on lawn weed control—for example, Pendimethalin ("Weed control in North Dakota Lawns"—H1009).

And, speaking of sprouts from a lilac stump, try "painting" the leaves and cut stumps with Roundup. It will likely take a couple of years, but if you persist you'll win—I promise!

Do not do the same thing with your maple tree. The only option you have at this point is to cut the suckers back!

Q: Would you please tell me what is wrong with my maple tree? Do fern leaf peonies take the same care as regular peonies? Are Japanese tree lilacs slow growers, and are they OK to plant in this area? Also, do you need to have two mock oranges to get them to flower? (Winner, S.D.)

A: Your maple looks as if it is suffering from too much salt (fertilizer burn or naturally high soil salt content) or is planted too deep. Try to improve the drainage around the plant site if possible, even if it means resetting your tree.

Basically, the peonies all require the same care. Japanese tree lilacs are among the most trouble-free plants to use in our prairie landscapes. They are not slow growers and have an attractive cherry-like bark. Get one!

No, you do not need two mock orange shrubs. Lack of flowering could be due to not enough direct sun, too much nitrogen fertilization or improper pruning. It could be, too, that you really don't have a mock orange!

Q: I have a fairly young maple tree that consistently develops numerous shoots around its base. Why does this tree do this when my other maple trees do not? I also have a cyclamen that is finished blooming and I would like to know how to care for it. (Gary, Minn.)

A: The cyclamen prefers cool, partially shady environments. When it is not in bloom, allow it to dry out, and remove all yellowed and dry foliage. Then, in the fall, repot and commence water/feeding again. Fertilization should be about every two weeks during bloom.

Concerning the maple; it could be due to a number of factors—planted too deep, root injury, or it was grafted on an aggressive root stock. If possible, dig up this fall when dormant and reset to a shallower depth.

Q: I am enclosing some leaves from our maple tree, it is about 8 years old. We had the same problem last year. It is planted close to box elder trees. We have another maple tree planted in another spot in our yard, which is close to some spruce trees and does not have the same problem. The trees are the same age. (Frazee, Minn.)

A: Thank you for the excellent sample. Your maple has a very attractive, photographic quality spindle-gall infestation.

These minor deformaties cause no harm to the tree, having only a cosmetic effect. Give them another year or so, and a predatory mite may discover these critters and make them a Sunday brunch sometime in April.

Q. These are leaves from our maple tree. Can you tell me what causes this and what effect it will have on it in future years? (Kindred, N.D.)

A. Your maple has bladder gall, caused by a mite back in the early spring as the leaves were unfolding.

This generally is a cosmetic problem and will not affect the health of the tree. They come and go naturally, so no action is suggested.

Q. I never miss reading your column in the Sun Country. It is very helpful. I want to plant old-fashioned lilacs, either a sugar maple or Norway maple, and an American linden, all purchased from Gurney's. Can I still plant them this fall, and do you have any hints that will help them survive our winters? Thank you. (Sykeston, N.D.)

A. Gurney's is a regional mail-order supplier, and their stock is usually quite successful at getting established in our area.

First, I suggest you stay away from those two maples and go with the linden. The biggest mistake people make is planting too deeply. When the stock comes in, note the soil line on the trunk and plant to that depth, water in well, but do not fertilize for the first year.

Healthy stock should take off next year.

Q. Sorry to bother you again, but my question concerned how to treat a diseased hedge, not a tree. Is treatment using Miracle-Gro the same for a hedge as a tree?

I believe it was called a "Cut Leaf Maple" in the Gurney catalog some 40 years ago. It is 120 feet long, and changes colors in the fall. One end is completely dead (no leaves) for 8 feet. The next 8 feet have leaves that are diseased. I will send a sample and also a sample from the remaining 104 feet that aren't diseased. (Hope, N.D.)

A. Your maple appears to be suffering from verticillium wilt. Keeping it well nourished will possibly overcome the effects of the disease. There is no spray that can be applied. Keep using Miracle-Gro.

Q.The branch and leaves are from an autumn blaze maple, planted in June 1993. The yellowing leaves with the black edges started mid summer 1996. The tree came back in the spring of 1997, but with yellow leaves and black edges, and branch tips turning black. I tried Miracid two applications, two weeks apart about one month ago. (Fargo, N.D.)

A.If your tree did not come back from two treatments of Miracid, then it is likely either a severe salt burn or a disease known as verticillium wilt.

I am having our pathology lab check it for the latter, although I feel it may be remote at best, due to the lack of vascular streaking.

If your tree was flooded at all in the past two years, then that could likely be the problem. 

In either case, if your entire tree looks like this, there isn't much hope for it. Sorry!

Q: We built our home in 1972 on a small farm northwest of Aberdeen, S.D. We planted a sapling maple tree (we brought with us from Minneapolis) the same year right in front of the house. Now 20 feet tall, it is the most beautiful tree we could ever imagine, but this spring for the first time ever it began weeping/bleeding sap or something, and a liquid literally ran right off the tree, dripping from branches, and sort of running from the huge trunk. Could this be maple syrup? Is there any danger to our tree? The liquid must be sweet, since we notice squirrels licking it now and then! Why after 28 years, it is only now letting out this liquid? (Aberdeen, S.D., e-mail)

A: The maple is "bleeding" sap that is used to make maple syrup. The sap flow is coming from breaks in the bark caused by the vicissitudes of life--hail, wind, birds, squirrels and of course, we humans. It is starting now because the sap is flowing within the tree, and it likely that there is great osmotic pressure within the tree because of the extensive root system that it has finally developed. It is nothing to worry about. The sticky sap will likely attract insects as the spring goes on, which in turn will attract birds to feed on the insects. There is nothing you can do, unless you want to tap the tree and collect the sap to make the syrup (it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, I believe, depending on the species of maple). In a nutshell, enjoy one of the small workings of our wonderful ecosystem!

Q: Have you heard of a Legency maple? Are they OK to plant in North Dakota? (Mandan, N.D., e-mail)

A: Nope, but I have heard of the Legacy, which is a cultivar of sugar maple. Unfortunately, this beauty doesn't make it in North Dakota.

Q: I just had planted three new maple trees called Autumn Radiance. The trees are about 15 feet tall and 2 to 3 inches around. They are planted about 9 feet away from each other in a row and 6 feet from a wooden deck (looks kind of close). The nursery did not have any pictures of the tree, nor very much information. Could you send me information on the tree, such as shape, recommended planting distance and tips on care? (e-mail)

A: In the book, "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants," Autumn Radiance is listed as a zone 4 plant, having a dense oval form with green summer foliage that turns brilliant orange-red in the fall. The book mentions nothing about the height or width, but knowing the species from when I lived in Ohio, I would suggest doubling the spacing you presently have so they will not be overcrowded as they mature.

Q: I am currently having a problem with a maple tree in my front yard. The symptoms I noticed about this tree is the leaves are wilted where they droop on the outer edges. There are bare limbs at the top of the tree where no leaves have grown for the last two years. These bare spots are about 12 inches long. The problem seems to be progressing. Some of the leaves are now beginning to turn fall colors on one side of the tree. The tree is about 10 years old and grew much quicker than all those planted at the same time of similar size. I don't want to lose this tree. (Port Elgin, Ontario, e-mail)

A: It sounds as though your tree may be dying from a fungal disease known as Verticillium wilt. This is a disease that typically comes about under well-maintained lawn conditions: regular watering, fertilizing etc. While sugar maples can tolerate some water, putting them in an ecological situation where maintenance favors the grass often results in this wilt. This fungus kills trees (flowers, veggies and shrubs too) essentially by blocking the vascular tissues. The fungal inoculum is found in the soil and can remain dormant for years, until conditions and a susceptible host arrive to move it into the active, pathogenic stage. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this disease. Once the symptoms have developed, it is simply a matter of time before total death of the plant. In some cases, it can happen quickly. In others, like your tree, it can take agonizingly long. Sorry!

Q: My sister's 20-year-old maple tree has spots that are a crimson red color, flat and almost shimmery. Some of the leaves have turned totally red, as well, with just green veins showing. Is this a case of leaf galls? (e-mail)

A: The galls you are seeing on your sister's maple are quite common and harmless. These galls often come in three forms—bladder, spindle and erineum. Often they make a spectacular showing (dense and bright red ) and get the homeowner's attention. They are caused by mites that move into the unfolding leaves in early spring and begin feeding, thereby causing the abnormal growth that's visible. No sprays are effective nor necessary.

Q: We have about a 20- to 24-inch-diameter maple tree in our back yard. Two years ago it looked great, but as you may know Ohio had quite a drought last year. The tree seemed to weather it OK, though it didn't look as great as it did the year before. Now this year, we started out with less than average rainfall again. This may or may not have anything to do with it, but the maple has quite a few branches where the leaf buds did not fill out. This happened on the very end of some of the branches (12 to 18 inches in), while others filled out fine. We fertilized with tree stakes in April, as we do about every three to four years. Do you think we have soil deficiencies, some sort of disease, cold weather damage or is lack of early spring rain fall the culprit? (The rainfall has since caught up, somewhat, but the leaves haven't come on. My husband says the buds are dead, and many have fallen off.) Our neighbor's considerable younger maple had the same condition when we first noticed ours. But since then, theirs has finished leafing out. Does this help? (Ohio e-mail)

A: It sounds as though the tree has suffered somewhat from the droughty months of last summer with some cambial death of some of the smaller branches. Continue to care for the tree in the best manner possible, but I suggest not using the fertilizer spikes as a nutrient source (for a number of reasons I won't bother going into right now). Generally, broadcast fertilization under the canopy and beyond will provide sufficient nutrients. If you can, have a professional arborist come in and clear out the dead wood, but check out some references before the first cut is made!

Q: I have a list of questions for you: 1. I have several different kinds of monarda and have always grown them with no problems. This year several of the varieties have many leaves turning brown and curling up. What is it and what should I do to stop it? 2. I noticed that many of the ash trees in our shelter belt have leaves that are full of bright orange spots. Is this something they will recover from? 3. I have two Memorial Day peonies (the fern leaf kind), one of which bloomed beautifully this year and the other did nothing. The buds turned brown and never bloomed. Both are plants that I have had for many years. Any idea what would prevent the one from blooming? 4. We have many very large silver maples in our yard and they usually produce a huge amount of seeds that litter our yard. The lawn actually looks brown some years from all the "helicopters." However, this year there were very few seeds. What is the reason for this? I hope the trees aren't in some kind of decline because they provide wonderful shade to our yard and are more than 50 years old. (e-mail)

A: I am always happy to answer your good questions. 1. With the weather we have had thus far this spring, it could be a fungal disease like leaf spot or downy mildew. Try spraying with bordeaux mixture to control further development of whatever it is. 2. The orange spots on the ash trees are likely ash rust--Puccinia sparaganoides. The alternate host is a marsh grass. It is usually more cosmetic than destructive. 3. Probably early bud rot--Botrytis paeoniae. Clean up the plant this fall, completely removing all plant litter. Next spring, spray with bordeaux mixture as the new growth begins and repeat in 10 days. 4. Just the opposite. The plant is likely under less stress this year than last. Usually when a plant goes into a heavy reproductive cycle, is an indication that death or near-death stress is coming on. Part of nature's assurance of survival of the species. Also, when many trees have a very heavy year of bearing fruit, the following year is usually a skip or very low fruit production. So, as long as the trees appear healthy otherwise, you have nothing to worry about.

Q: I am sending you some leaves off of our maple tree. Can you tell me what is wrong with them and what I should do? (Oberon, N.D.)

A: Your maple has been attacked by a gall-forming mite, known as Eriophyes aceris, forming what we call erineum galls. Nothing to worry about and nothing to do. They cause no serious harm to the tree. Enjoy the color changes.

Q: Can you tell me why my Norway maple doesn’t seem to be growing? It is about 5 years old and looks really healthy, but the branches don’t seem to be growing. It sits on the east side of our house and is in full sun most of the day. Is there something we can do for it? (Gettysburg, S.D.)

A: Yes! Move it about 150-200 miles east and it will do better. Norway maples do not perform well in high pH (alkaline), poorly drained, or compacted soils. Now, having said all of that, you still have a problem. From the symptoms on the leaves you sent me, I think your tree is attempting to grow in a soil that is either high in salts or quite compacted. I suggest renting a core aerator and aerate beginning at the drip-line or canopy edge of your tree; run the aerator in ever increasing circles around the tree. This will improve the gas exchange in the soil. If this doesn’t work then vertical mulching should be attempted.

Q: I live in a fairly open area and we have some mature shelter belts that are providing some cover from the wind. I would like to add some fall color to my yard with a nice maple or two. I already have some aspen and poplars but most of my specimen trees are evergreens. What would you recommend for my location? I saw your recommendation for an autumn blaze for Fargo. Would that work in a less protected environment? (E-mail reference, Bismarck, N.D.)

A: I would like to see you give 'Autumn Blaze' (Acer x freemanii 'Autumn Blaze') a try. It is a hybrid between red and silver maple, with the beauty of the red and toughness of the silver. Try to be generous with preparation of the soil when planting. You might also consider 'Indian Summer,' as a cultivar of the same maple but one introduced in Canada, so it should be hardy enough to take your site. It too, has excellent red fall color.

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