What's happening to my Sugar Maple

Asked September 28, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

I've attached a couple of pictures of the Sugar Maple in my front yard. It's about 20 years old. I just noticed today that the trunk was turning black and when I stepped closer, noticed the holes. This doesn't look good, what do you think is happening?

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

The holes are the work of a yellow bellied sapsucker. They are common is this area, though not seen often. Here is info about their activities: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/woodpeckers-and-sapsuckers The holes are minor and nothing to be concerned about.

The blackening on the trunk may be slime flux which, again, is not a problem: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/slime-flux-and-wetwood-trees-and-shrubs

The main problem we see with your sugar maple is that three major limbs have been allowed to grow from one area of the trunk (the three branches on the right in the first and second photos.) As branches grow, they expand and push again each other at the base, ultimately weakening the attachment to the trunk. Some slime flux may be coming from this. See page 5 & 6 of this pruning publication (the section about branch attachment)http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG84_Pruning%20ornam...
As you'll see, narrow tree crotches are a problem.

You may want to remove one or two of the branches. (The lower, more horizontal branch should be the strongest.) You may want to have an arborist take a look at the situation. We only recommend arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. Many tree service companies have certified arborists. You can find one at www.treesaregood.org