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Japanese Maple Problem

October 18, 2018
last modified: October 18, 2018

I planted 2 Acer "osakazuki" approximately 3 years ago. They are north facing but protected by a rendered fence and have had no problems to this stage. This spring one has appeared to die from the top down while the other seems to be fine. The main trunk has died back completely with outer limbs having some folliage which is a bit withered. I have noticed some aphids in the last week. The soil seems fine moisture wise and I have been regular with seasol and slow relesae fertiliser.Just after any advice on what might be the issue and whether its to far gone to save.ThanksGareth

Comments (7)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    First, we always need to know where (geographically) you are located. Second, that siting looks to be far from ideal for this JM. Osakazuki is a larger growing cultivar and can get to be easily 20' by 20' in a suitable climate. It will soon be encroaching on the sidewalk or driveway.

    The leafless tree does not look promising. Dying from the top down or in branch segments is typically a sign of Verticillium wilt, a fatal soil pathogen that JM's are overly prone to. The usual suggestion, if suspected, is to take one or two of the lower branches into your local extension service office for a diagnosis and they in turn will send to a plant pathology lab for evaluation. If it is detected as VW, there is nothing you can do nor should you plant another maple or susceptible species in that place.

    But it is virtually impossible to diagnose this with any accuracy remotely. Take the samples into the extension office to determine exactly what the problem is. They will also be able to tell you how to deal with it, if that is even possible. And in the case of VW, it is not. You just need to cut your losses and move on.

  • HU-550605526

    Nooo , don't just cut your losses , save what you can , I know it's a horrible feeling to watch a beloved tree die but you may be able to save it in a manner of speaking.

    From what I can see , you have a few nice branches , if you have never heard of air rooting ... now is the time for you to start googling or youtubing .... If you still have life in the main trunk , try doing it on there and save what you can .

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Unless and until you know what is wrong with your tree, there is no possible way to know if air layering would even be successful. It most certainly will not if the tree has VW!! That will just compromise any potential for success. The disease destroys the vascular system and is fatal on young trees and any attempt at propagation of any sort will be tainted with the infection. And now is not the time of year to do so anyway.

    If you really want to wait and see what happens, I guess you could. Air layering is best done when new growth initiates in late winter or early spring. But I wouldn't waste time between now and then to get the tree evaluated by a pathologist!!

  • HU-550605526

    Agreed that it is not the best time but also the tree is dying anyway , try to do something instead of just letting die , that's all I'm saying and just hope it isn't some deadly disease infecting all tissue and that some part of it can be saved .

    But also legitimate question , if it's a pathogen , especially if it's one in the soil, would the other tree not also be affected seeing as though it is in the same soil as the other one or would a trees health determine if it is able to fight off such an infection?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    If it IS verticillium wilt - and you will not know that for sure unless the tree is properly diagnosed by a plant pathologist - then ALL the tissue will be infected. So you will be just wasting time attempting to air layer under those conditions.

    VW is an extremely opportunistic pathogen. It is present in virtually all soils but typically in an inactive or dormant state. It does not 'come to life' until stimulated into activity by chemical signals plants emit when they are under stress. It then invades the plant tissue via the root system and proceeds to destroy the vascular system.

    It is entirely possible for one tree to become infected while another close by is not. In fact, it is a very frequent occurrence. It is not a pathogen that can be treated for and there is no control. Larger, older and well established trees can sometimes compartmentalize the pathogen and only a portion will die off. For younger plants, the disease is almost always fatal and can happen very fast.....almost overnight or within a week at most.

    If VW is found to be the cause, because the pathogen has been activated in that location, it is advised NOT to plant any susceptible species in the immediate vicinity, as the activity of planting and associated root disturbance is enough of a stressor to trigger the pathogen.

    This fact sheet from the Connecticut extension service provides a pretty good summation of the pathogen but you can research this extensively online.

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