Hi there We have a 15-20' japanese maple facing southwest in the front of our...

Asked April 20, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT

Hi there We have a 15-20' japanese maple facing southwest in the front of our home. Late summer early fall of last year I noticed the leaves began to curl and turn brown prematurely very quickly. It seemed to happen to all the branches but one. Now that the tree are back to blooming, this tree still has the brown and curled leaves and the one branch that kept its leaves is not coming back either. Is there a sure-fire way I can determine if this tree is dead? I'd say its at least 15-20 years old. I have never used weed killer in the area nor have done any excessive pruning nor used fertilizer anywhere close. It was going so well and vibrant for so many years and the decline has been shockingly fast. Thanks for any guidance you can give me.

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

It sounds like your Japanese maple tree is in serious distress. The first thing to do is to give it the 'thumb nail' test. Simply scrape some of the bark away in various places on the tree and observe the color of the underlying tissue. If it is green, the tree is till alive but is under severe stress. If it is brown or whitish, that portion of the tree is dead.
The cause is difficult to determine from your description of cultural and environmental conditions, however, maple trees have very shallow roots and any disturbance of the root zone can be catastrophic. For example, excessive mulch or soil can suffocate the roots. A change in drainage patterns caused by nearby construction can affect the tree's health. If you can attach a photo or two to this response, we would be happy to look for other signs or symptoms.