Sugar maple leaf browning/premature color/leaf drop

Asked July 15, 2018, 12:45 PM EDT

Hi, I am having the following recurring problems with a sugar maple in my yard, and would greatly appreciate your expert advice. The problem is that the leaves start yellowing/browning in July, turn color in August and all leaves drop by September. This happened in 2016, 2017 and is happening this year as well. In 2017, I had fungicide treatment done, but that did not make a difference - the leaves turned in August and were gone soon thereafter. This year, I had root extraction done in June, but I am seeing the leaves browning and dropping, which are accelerating as we approach August. This year, the leaves appeared to have been a lighter green than previous years, and now the tree looks scorched. The tree was also fertilized this past April. Look forward to hearing from you. If you do a site visit, I would be happy to pay for the expense. Sincerely,

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Early fall coloration is a sign of stress. Were you working with a certified arborist on the "root extraction"? Did they use an air spade? Any sign of circling/girdling roots?
How did you fertilize? Given the timing of the fertilization, we'd expect green color to have been improved in the crown, but the root extraction just after could also increase stress.

Sugar Maple are not native and not always long-lived in our area.

Sometimes trees have problems when they are planted, either because they were already compromised, were poorly planted and mulched, or struggled through establishment. They can struggle along year after year with early fall coloration or dieback, slowly fading over a long period of time.
Take a look at this page that discusses the signs of tree decline:

If you are not working with a Certified Arborist (tree health expert) credentialed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISO), we'd suggest you get an on-site evaluation of all of the factors in your landscape.

You can search for one at
(We don't recommend or usually hear of professionals spraying a sugar maple with fungicides for diseases.)