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My small Japanese Maple Tree is suddenly half dead. What happened?

Answer

Most likely, your tree has contracted a fungal disease called Verticillium wilt. This is a soil-borne pathogen that invades the tree generally through the root system although it can also enter the tree through above-ground wounds. Young Japanese Maples are particularly susceptible to Verticillium wilt, but all Japanese Maples that get it will die within a few weeks to a few years.

You might first notice it as bud failure on your Japanese Maple in the spring or wilted or smaller than usual leaves, followed by die-back of the branches in whole sections of the tree. There is no organic or chemical cure. Your only option is to remove the tree and to burn it or have it burned to destroy the fungus. If you elect to prune off the dead branches to keep the tree for a while before it completely dies, disinfect your pruners with every cut and burn the branches you trim off. Also, clean off your boots before leaving an infested area.

Once the Verticillium fungus is in your soil it is virtually impossible to eradicate and it will last for years. For that reason, if you want to replace your Japanese Maple, replace it with trees that are not susceptible such as any conifer, birch or dogwood.

If you need help removing and properly disposing of your infected Japanese Maple and planting a suitable replacement, give us a call.

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About Linda Lillie

Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.

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