What's killing my tree?

Asked June 8, 2016, 9:50 AM EDT

A street tree in our yard is dying. The bark on one side of the trunk is split and broken. The branches on that side of the tree are dead and dying. The leaves look healthy on the rest of the tree and the same symptoms have been present since we bought the property in 2012. It is planted about 4 ft from the driveway and sidewalk and a cleanout plug is within a few feet of the base. What’s causing this? Am I better off treating or replacing? If replacement, what would be a better choice? Thanks!

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

The trunk of this red maple tree has sustained extensive damage, which means that no nutrients or water are able to be transported to the upper tree above the damaged area. Impossible to say what the cause was at this point, but this does not look like a disease or insect-caused problem. The injured area cannot "heal" and become functional, it can merely seal off spread of infection.

So, yes, we'd recommend that you replace the tree now. It will not get better. Here is a good article about deciding when to remove a tree: http://extension.umd.edu/learn/how-do-you-decide-when-remove-tree

Red maples are good trees, and native, too, which is even better. You can certainly replace it with another red maple. Your choice for a replacement will depend on what ultimate size you want. Linden, crabapple, hawthorne, dogwood, American elm, or redbud would be possibilities. Look online at the sizes and habits of any tree you are interested in planting. Some flower beautifully, some have good berries or seeds for birds, etc.