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Mr. Smarty Plants - Failure to thrive of non-native Japanese maple

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Monday - May 03, 2010

From: Glastonbury, CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Failure to thrive of non-native Japanese maple
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My 10 year old Japanese red maple leaves suddenly started to curl up and die at the end of summer last year. Only about a quarter of the tree leaved out this spring, branches are dead. Can I plant another in its spot? What could have happened?

ANSWER:

Acer palmatum, Japanese Maple, is native to China and (of course) Japan. Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which they are being grown, we have no information on this plant in our Native Plant Database. Here is an About.com: Forestry article How to Manage and ID Japanese Maple, which can give you a lot of information to help you discover the problems. The fact that you kept it alive for 10 years indicates you were doing a good job, as it is not ordinarily a long-lived plant, and this USDA Plant Profile does not even show it as growing in Connecticut. Hartford County, in central Connecticut, is in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, and the Japanese maple is hardy from Zones 5b to 8, so your temperatures should not have been the problem. If you know others are growing this tree in your area, you might contact the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Office for Hartford County. If this is something that has been happening in your area, they are closer to home and can give you more help than we can.
 

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