Silver Maple top problems

Asked May 14, 2020, 12:52 PM EDT

My silver maple does not have leaves in the top and has lots of little growth on it.
There is also a small but kind of deep hole near the base of the tree that has some type of filler in it and there is a knot in the tree with lots of the same Feller and I enclose a picture of this

Orange County Florida

1 Response

Silver maple is very fast growing and so tends to have softer, more brittle wood than other kinds of hardwood trees. It is easily damaged by high winds. It also has a shallow root system and can easily sustain root damage from mowing. This can lease to disease - and silver maple is susceptible to many common root diseases.

It also has a fairly short life span, compared to most other hardwoods. You are located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b, the very southern edge of this species' range. That means that the plant will be more stressed and do less well than it would closer to the center of its range. As a result, a tree planted at the very edge will likely begin declining much earlier than it would farther north. It truly is a mid-western species.

From the images you sent it is clear to me that the tree is on its way out. The die-back in the crown may have first started from wind damage, but were the tree healthier, we would see denser, fuller regrowth, not the sparse clumps I see in your image. This kind of die back signals serious problems in the root system. What that problem is, I cannot tell. It could be soil disturbance from digging, trenching or even parking vehicles. It could be it doesn't have enough root space. But the tree has now - I suspect - been infected with one or more diseases / pathogens that are reducing the tree's root system and so the tree's ability to support itself. The knot hole image you supplied makes it clear there is decay that has moved into the tree - what you are seeing at the center of the knot-hole is decayed wood.

And the image of the growths on the stem indicates to me the tree stopped growing vigorously quite some time ago. What you see growing on the tree are lichens - not damaging or harmful themselves. But lichens only grow on things that are not moving (rocks, old trees, the soil, etc.). So the presence of such a heavy lichen load suggest the tree has been in decline for some time. The tree is not really growing, just maintaining, and not doing that very well. The tree is dying.

If you have interest in retaining the tree for wildlife benefits (woodpeckers, owls, etc.), I recommend you have a tree company remove any large branches that could impact your home or property when they fall (they will fall). If that does not interest you - and let me be very clear here - your tree is beyond saving - I recommend full or partial removal. It is really too large to be treated successfully for any of the pathogens affecting it. That would not save your tree and would be very expensive.

If you take this advice and have the tree removed, replace it with something a little better suited to the soils and climate of Orange County.

The Florida Association of Native Nurseries has an excellent online tool for selecting plants based on where you are in the state and what features interest you. but if you are looking for another maple, you may want to try red maple or Florida sugar maple (just do not expect a maple to live a very long time).

When it comes time to hire someone to remove the tree, please consult with the International Society of Arboriculture Florida Chapter or the ISA "find an arborist" feature The tree seems to have a lot of decay in it and will need someone skilled to work on it safely. I personally would only allow someone with ISA certification to work on the tree because of that.

Good luck!