Thinning silver maple foliage, falling twigs

Asked July 16, 2019, 8:11 PM EDT

We have a silver maple in the back yard. Over the last 2-3 years the foliage has been thinning. Early summer twigs and small branches fall from the upper reaches of the tree. We suspected squirrels but have witnessed the twigs fall but no squirrels around. The twigs look like they broke off (picture). Back door neighbors said same thing happens to their Norway maple. Looking to use chemical products but would like expert opinion prior to it.

Ingham County Michigan

1 Response


This does look like squirrel damage, and in southeast Michigan this has been happening the past 2-3 weeks. The jagged looking ends are a symptom of squirrel damage. Silver maples are brittle trees and these twigs can come down during thunderstorms or wind events, too.

A thinning crown can have many causes. Past summers and autumns we have had droughts, which can affect trees for several years later and show up as dieback. Last winter we had a polar vortex event that caused branch dieback on a variety of shrubs and trees. Maples also suffer from being planted too deep, mulched incorrectly with mulch piled against the trunk, compacted soil, too small a soil volume for their roots, girdling roots, cankers, and fungi, and insects like scale and caterpillars.

More than one of these issues may be affecting your trees. To detect some of these requires a lab or special equipment. An on site evaluation would be best. You can hire a certified arborist, a professional who has taken training in care, diseases, pests, and passed certification tests. He/she will come on site and give a complete diagnosis and a plant care plan. Find certified arborists by zip code here—-


The best thing you can do for your trees, whether you hire an arborist or not, is to give the trees good care. This means watering during dry times in summer and fall( a difficult task for a tree this size!), mulching no deeper than 3 inches of mulch that does not touch the trunk, and not injuring bark when mowing around the base, over the surface roots, or when pruning branches. Applying enough chemical or fertilizer for a tree this size would require a professional. If you do have an arborist evaluation soon, save some of the fallen twigs so he/she can examine them. Thanks for using our service.