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Thursday - September 05, 2013

From: Charlotte, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Young Maple Dropping Leaves in Late Summer
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I have a 6-year-old maple tree. I'm not sure what type it is as the builder planted it. It is as tall as our two-story house and very healthy. It's the biggest tree in our neighborhood because we fertilize it. The leaves have begun to turn brown and drop. I noticed that the inside leaves had brown spots on them and are turning completely brown and are dropping. It's not fall yet! At this rate, there won't be any leaves left for the change of color! The tree is still very leafy on the outside and green but the inside is becoming bare. The branches look fine. We have had a very wet summer this year. Could this have anything to do with it? None of the plants underneath the shade of the tree (Knock out roses, day lilies, and philodendron) have done well this year.


Congratulations on taking good care of your maple tree. It certainly is healthy to be so young and already have reached the top of the house.  It is great that you are also watching your tree for early signs of any problems.

If you want to try to identify your maple tree (if it is a native one), you can look at our website for the Acer genus (maples) to match leaf shapes, tree size and form. We have 27 species and varieties of maples listed.

The wet summer you have been having in North Carolina could be the factor that has caused a fungus disease to attack maple trees (more than other years). This disease is anthracnose and causes v-shaped, brown or tan patches (necrotic areas) to form on the leaves in between the veins and ultimately the leaves to fall prematurely.  There are some good images of leaves infected with anthracnose at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station factsheet on Common Diseases of Maple for you to compare with your tree. Other leaf diseases are included as well.

For many fungus diseases that attack trees it is important to rake up all the fallen leaves so that the fungus spores do not overwinter on the soil surface and reinfect the tree the following year. Usually this is enough to keep the disease under control.

If your early falling leaves continue to progress and the health of the tree is a concern, it is suggested that an arborist be consulted.



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