Part of Japanese maple dying - disease or pest?

stevation(z5a Utah)September 8, 2008

My Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Atropurureum') in front of my house has a disease or something. I'm worried about it. This one main branch and all the smaller branches that shoot off of it are dying (you can click the image for a larger version). It started with some leaves turning red about a month ago, and now they've shriveled up. Some of the smaller twigs turned black, but the thicker part of the branch is still green.

The rest of the tree looks just fine, as shown in this photo. What should I do? Should I cut off that branch as far down the tree as I can go? How will I know the disease or pest hasn't started attacking other parts of the tree? Is there a pesticide that could help inoculate the rest of the tree against whatever is harming this branch?

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There are a number of fungal issues or blights that can affect Japanese maples, most of which are rather serious problems that can often mean failure/death of the tree. With sharp pruners or pruning saw cut off the affected branch as close to the main trunk as the branch collar and take this portion into your local cooperative extension office for an accurate diagnosis. Sterilize your pruning tools thoroughly after making this cut.

If it is one of these issues (and from the look, I would lean heavily to verticillium wilt), there is little you can do other than keep the tree in the best possible condition. IOW, there is no magic elixir that will "cure" the problem. Sometimes otherwise healthy trees can outgrow these problems, most often it is just the beginning of the end, unfortunately. Sometimes the progressive decline is very gradual; othertimes it can be extremely rapid.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 8:57PM
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