What's wrong with my tree?

Asked April 8, 2018, 10:26 AM EDT

We have a young Autumn Blaze Maple that was planted by our builder in the summer of 2016. Both that year, and this past year, the leaves have gotten spots and turned brown. The leaves then dry up and fall off long before they should (beginning at the bottom branches). We thought at first that it was a watering issue, but now I'm not so sure. Are these tar spots? How do I treat the tree? I would really hate to lose the tree. I know it is not in great soil (very sandy clay). Last year, we dug around the root ball and added garden soil designed for trees and shrubs. We also discovered that the people who planted the trees left huge pockets of air around the root ball. We filled those in with the garden soil. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. The included photos were taken June 27, 2017. Thank you for your time, Christine Dorow

Currituck County North Carolina

1 Response

The Autumn Blaze is a hybrid tree crossed between a red maple and a silver maple, they are not usually affected by disease. However this picture appears to be showing early signs of Tar Spot, which is caused by the fungus Rhytisma. If infection is heavy enough, then premature leaf drop is expected. It doesn't harm the tree, it just looks bad. The fungus overwinters in leaves dropped the prior season, so cleaning up those dropped leaves will probably give you the control you are looking for. Also, these trees are pretty tolerant to wet, dry, and clay soils. I hope this helps and if you have any other concerns I can be reached at the Currituck County Extension Office, phone number is 252-232-2261.