Can I Save my 20+ year old Japanese Maple?

jwendolMay 1, 2007

I posted a message yesterday, asking if anyone could tell me if my Mature Japanese Maple was dead. I'm not sure of the type of Japanese Maple I have, but it looked to be in healthy condition last Fall. It shows no sign of budding/blooming and it is May 1st. I'm located in Long Island, NY (Zone 7). I had a couple of Arbourists look at it and they both said that the Tree's roots were "Girdling" or it obtained some sort of disease that cut off the Vascular System. One mentioned that for $1,200 they could dig out the roots, prune them, feed & fertilize them, but they couldn't guarantee recovery.

I was wondering if it is worth trying? How old do Japanese Maples live until? Should I try anything else to salvage this tree? Any advise is welcome. Thanks. Jim

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myersphcf(z6a IL)

With no guarentee I would opt out ...Jm's can get quite old in the right conditions... for half that price you could get a GOOD size named cultuivar...not as big but nice ...It really comes down to your idea of whether 1200$$ is alot of money or chump change...which depends on how much you have most folks consider that alot others blow that at Vegas in an hour ;>) but if the tree means alot to you... you have to weigh the plusses and minuses. At any rate I would get referances cause just like Dr's Lawyers and other prof. there are good and bad ones... There is also the question of how "dead" is it ... if it is really dead then no one can resurect it IMHO...and if it is diseased probably DITTO ..yes girdling "could" possibly be fixed...alot of ifs here...and then what tree would be left ...maybe a $500 tree?? ;>) You have alot of decisions to personal opinion from afar with NO sentimental attachment and no idea what you can or can't afford a new tree ...AND I'd wait a bit maybe till mid june at least and see what happens with this tree it may surprise ya... David

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 5:31PM
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I would get a new tree. there is a good possibility that the tree has a girdling root, but I have two problems with having anyone try to correct that now. One: if the tree is not leafing out as it should, it may be already too late. Second: trees with girdling roots usually give some signs for a year or two at least before the just "up and die," things like part of the tree dying above the part of the trunk that is girdled. Or a general loss of vigor. Or the trunk developing some misshapen form. I guess it is possible that it all at once got a root that strangled it--I am not sure. But there is a very good possibility that it is not a girdling root at all. Sometimes trees just suddenly die and there is no explanation available. I have a nice JM die a year ago and when I dug it up I could find nothing wrong. And it had the best of care, as far as I can understand things.

Yes, spend the money on a new tree or two! And learn how to plant these new trees so a girdling root is not a possibility--they can be a special problem with maples.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 9:57PM
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I'd have to agree that a girdling root is highly unlikely to show up with the sudden death of that well-established a tree and with no previous indication of a problem - they just don't work like that. OTOH, there are diseases that can manifest themselves rather abruptly. Verticillium wilt, which Japanese maples are quite prone to, is one (the compromising of the vascular system mentioned).

VW is generally relatively easy to diagnose by a trained pathologist. Taking a good sized sample branch to your local extension office may suffice or they can direct you to a qualified individual. If it is VW, even if the tree is not entirely dead now, it's just a matter of time. There is no effective treatment and a $1200 tab to dig up and examine the roots is just a waste of good money. And not a good idea to plant a similarly susceptible species in the same location once this one is removed.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 11:41PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

I agree with GG and SORRY I forgot to add...never plant a JM in the same area as a dead tree not a good idea whatever the reason of that tree dieing. I would say vercillium should have manifested itself last fall with branch damage...I don't think it would do so over winter maybe on a small new tree but not an oldster unless GG thinks otherwise I do not consider VW a sudden killer maybe fast would be a better term... the same with girdling you should have seen problems. The only thing I have ever seen do in a large tree over the winter is 2-4D getting into the root sytem which could happen if you tordoned a nearby tree it travels easily by roots from one plant to another ,...I guess if you had a septic and used some atomic stuff to clean or clear it and the tree had somehow gotten in there THIS PAST WINTER from a crack that could have done it too...My current thinking that it is a soil born thing but you wiill probably never know..David

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 10:14AM
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Thanks for all the input. I am going to get a couple more Arbourists over to access the tree. My wife and I are resigned to the fact that the tree is dead, and will most likely replace the tree with a couple of others for the cost of trying to save this tree. Thanks again. Jim

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 1:54PM
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David, VW can often invade during dormancy and make severe inroads - it is quite common - and a pretty pernicious attack it can be as it is difficult to diagnose any problem when the tree is not in leaf :-( The first sign that there is any problem is a failure of large portions of the tree to leaf out in spring. As to the rapidity of its spread, it can be very sudden, decimating an entire tree within a matter of days, although that is far more typical with young trees than it is with mature, well-established ones and is generally more of a midseason phenomenon. I've had it happen myself and it is startling to see how fast a decline can be produced. With a tree this mature, an overnight or very rapid decline is quite unusual - generally it is just a portion of the tree that is affected and if otherwise healthy, the tree is often able to compartmentalize the pathogen and even outgrow the problem.

From such a distance and by only verbal description, it is pretty nigh impossible to determine what exactly may be the cause of the problem. We are ony offering speculations. I would agree that replanting with another maple (or other VW susceptible species) in the same location is NOT advised.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 9:24AM
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I have the same problem. A 20+ Japanese Red maple that was perfectly healthy in the fall now appears dead with no leaves at all. No indication of any issues last fall. Trying to determine what happened

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 7:54PM
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