En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 10, 2010

From: Evansville, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Problems with October Glory maple tree in Evansville IN
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have a 15 yr. old October Glory maple tree. 2 years ago we had a bad ice storm and this tree was covered with 1/2 to 3/4 " of ice. The tree resembled a chicken wishbone with its limbs touching the ground. No limbs were lost, but it has never fully leafed out since then. Last summer the leaves started dropping at a slow but steady rate in July. The leaves were closed up and brown around the edges. This spring, it was full of maple seeds, but not leaves. I can see thru the tree, the leaves are that sparse. We do have a cat and he tries to use the mulch as a litter box.


The ice storm and resultant damage to your tree certainly cannot have done it any good. Directly connecting that to the leaf drop problem is not that clear.

This USDA Forest Service website Acer rubrum "October Glory'  gives you more information on what is a cultivar (cultivated variety) of a tree native to North America, Acer rubrum (red maple). From that article, we extracted this information:

"Due to graft-incompatibility problems, which cause the tree to break apart, preference should be given to cultivars produced on their own roots."

The problem with that kind of information is: who knows what tree was grafted onto what other trees roots? How do you trace that sort of thing and/or blame a problem the tree is having on the grafting procedure? So, we went looking for other possibilities. We are not plant pathologists and even a trained expert would probably need to look at the tree to know what was going on. We are going to refer you to some websites that have pictures, even one slide show, on pests and diseases of the maple tree. 

From lovetoknow: Gardens Maple Tree Diseases

HubPages Maple Tree Problems

About.com: Forestry Insects and Diseases of Red Maple

Our recommendation is that you get that expert we mentioned earlier, a trained and licensed arborist to look at the tree, hear its history and make a diagnosis. As an interim step, and perhaps to help you find that expert, contact the Purdue University Extension Office for Vanderburgh County. They do work with plant pathologists, and this might be something that is going on in other parts of your area. They are closer to the problem and may know right away what the problem is.

Pictures of Acer rubrum 'October Glory" maple tree from Google

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Acer rubrum

Acer rubrum

Acer rubrum

Acer rubrum






More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Precautions regarding pruning live oaks in the Austin area.
October 27, 2015 - Is it still recommended that we clean pruning shears and spray wounds when pruning live oaks in the Austin area?
view the full question and answer

Grasshopper-resistant landscape plants?
May 20, 2009 - We have a ton of grasshoppers in our area. I would like to plant bushes and flowers that the grasshoppers will not eat. Can you suggest any??
view the full question and answer

Burning sulfur over coals in the home for insect control.
July 18, 2008 - Is burning sulfur(over hot coals) in your home a safe way of getting rid of ants and insects?
view the full question and answer

Holes in trunk of Monterey Oak in Austin, TX.
May 05, 2013 - My Monterrey Oak (about 4 in diameter) has a problem. It started budding out and had a few leafs, then just quit. It had what I thought was new buds that would develop, but didn't. Then, the exist...
view the full question and answer

Leaf problems on oaks in North Liberty IA
June 12, 2010 - My oak trees (young and old) are showing leaf problems. Is there a disease or insect causing oak tree disease?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center