Box Elder? Tree not doing so well

Asked August 30, 2020, 2:15 PM EDT

Hello. I need help identifying this tree and what could be wrong with it. Someone once told me they thought it was Box Elder but the leaves were so bad it was hard to tell in photos. Is Box Elder a junk tree? Anyway, it started dropping its leaves in July during the heat wave. But it's done this in years past, too. I fed it last fall. What can I do to save it? There are no vines, no bugs that I can tell. You can see we have a healthy Sycamore next to it. An Emerald Ash Borer got the ash that's about 50 feet away.

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

Yes, this is a boxelder tree which may be in serious decline. The leaf canopy is extremely thin, and it sounds like it has been stressed (leaf drop) for several years. We do not see any particular disease or insect issue, which indicates it is an environmental or cultural problem.

The good news is that there don't seem to be any dead branches. Has anything changed in the vicinity in the past few years? ( Its roots may extend out 1 1/2 times the height of the tree.) There seems to be something at the base over the roots, but we cannot see it well. A closer focused photo might help.

Look through this. Here are abiotic problems (not insect or disease related) that trees have (especially check out the Miscellaneous at the bottom):

You may want to have a certified arborist look at it on-site. They are usually associated with tree service companies, but usually don't charge to assess a tree. (Only charge for work done.) You can find one near you at:

If they recommend treatment, you can check back with us if you like. And you can also get several opinions, just like doctors.