Help Save my Japanese Maple! *Pics*

jalconJuly 20, 2014

Hi, I have noticed some strange things with my Emperor Japanese Maple. First I noticed, that the leaves look like something is eating away at them. Not all, but maybe 25% of them. Second, the bark just does not look right. It is kind of coated with something, and their is also this "yellow" hard powdery stuff in the crevices. Lastly, and perhaps the most concerning, is I noticed a crack develop at the base of the trunk. I am almost positive this was not there when I planted it. I planted this in April. Please help!!!! What can I do? Is this tree a goner? I do have a 1 year warranty on the tree.
Thanks in advance, pics below

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I'm not at all sure your tree needs any saving :-)) Doesn't look like much wrong with it to me. I'd want to see a clearer view of the base to make sure the root flare was obvious but best as I can tell from photo, even that looks OK. Discoloration of bark is normal and attributable to both sun/shade conditions and the development of some harmless lichen. The yellow stuff is certainly a form of lichen and again, harmless.

I can't see clearly but are there holes in the foliage or just spots? Spots are not an indication of insects but reflect uneven watering of the newly planted tree. The soil should stay evenly moist at all times, neither too wet or too dry. If insect holes, that is not much of an issue either. And since JM's resent having anything other than water sprayed on their foliage, not much you can do about it anyway.

Seriously, I think you are worrying unnecessarily.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 3:24PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

The leaves look like a little wear and tear.
The depression on the trunk worries me. It looks like the cambium layer is dead under it and it will just be a matter of time before the bark separates from the trunk.
Maybe not, but it bears watching.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 5:22PM
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Thanks guys. Here are some more pictures.

First picture, is a better picture of the crack, or cracks rather, it's kind of a depression I guess..

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:27PM
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Here is a pic of the other side of the tree.

The bottom 6 or so inches of the tree has always been somewhat darker, I suppose because of the graft location? It looks even more contrast in this picture, because the tree/bark are wet.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:28PM
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Lastly here is a picture of the overall tree.

Thanks guys!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:29PM
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As gardengal wrote, the leaf spotting is a result of water stress and is not a huge problem. If you want to go to the trouble, expanding the mulched area around the tree would be a good idea. Turf grass consumes a tremendous amount of water and is competing with the maple. Emperor can eventually become a large tree, but will have a lot of difficulty expanding its root systm into areas of dense grass.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:29AM
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That damage on the trunk is alarming. I'm pretty sure it will develop into a larger, open wound during the winter. Next growing season will determine wether the tree will be able to handle it or not.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 7:43AM
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Can't I wrap the wound with something? What would cause something like this?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:25AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I'm thinking either it was planted too deep or mulch was/is too close to its trunk. (click on photo)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:50AM
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I can certainly remove some soil from the base, maybe it is planted too deeply.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 9:05AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

The sunken area at the base appears to be to be canker. Had to remove a Ukigumo JM earlier in the season for this very reason. I have seen allot of this over the last few years. Have seen allot of it on crabapples, Japanese Maples, and other maples. Plants sometimes beat the pathogen, sometimes not. If they are going to beat it, then expect to see callus to form around the edges of the sunken area. Even if the callus forms, it is far from certain. Once the tree goes dormant for the winter, the canker will often gain the upper hand again. However if the callus does not form by end of summer, then from what I have seen, it's almost certainly a matter of time before the tree is killed.

As for how your plant became infected, I suspect that a number of low cost and/or large scale producers have gotten very careless over the last 5-10 years. There has been allot of apparent disease increase in allot of other plant groups as well over the same period (Aster Yellows seems to be everywhere anymore, to the point it's getting rather difficult to get disease free coneflowers, saw this Saturday at the largest local nursery). I'm sure part of it is due to producers having a difficult time the last several years, therefore cutting corners, poor training, poor enforcement, less responsible labor, etc. But also Big Box Store has little incentive, as they know Q Public is unlikely to know anything about disease and will be back again next year to buy another one.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Thanks guys

Hmmm....Went to a few garden centers. First guy said JM don't get cankers and to just wrap the wound with electrical tape for 2 years, it will grow with the tree, then remove it. I laughed and said OK.

Second lady said it looked suspicious and might as well return the tree since I can.

Just like anything else, it seems if you ask three people about it, you will get three answers, lol.

The place I bought it however has no JM's in stock. They should come august early September though so I guess I will wait until then.

Sucks, because I love the trees structure and shape.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 1:35PM
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So...I was inspecting more today and brushed some dirt away around the base, when I did this I noticed probably a hundred tiny ants. I then noticed there was quite a few in the mulch too. Odd. How can I kill them without harming the tree. Keep in mind some are like under the mulch.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 7:56PM
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Any other thoughts?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Don't worry about the ants - they are harmless. And JM's certainly DO get cankers but that mark on the trunk looks nothing like a canker. Is it soft and spongy? If still firm, it could be as Dax said and just the result of mulch piled against the trunk or even some mechanical damage. And, JM barks is very thin and can get damaged for all sorts of reasons, most of which are nothing to get overly alarmed about. Regardless, put NOTHING over the area - keep dry if possible (no directional irrigation heads hitting the area) and allow the tree to do its thing.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 2:35PM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I have seen several cankers that looked exactly like that on JM locally. Cankers are simply sunken areas, and are not always spongey. Now in this case is may not be canker, as one can never tell for certain from a picture. But I have seen this same appearance many times, and when I looked very closely, would find that there would be dark/black areas just under the outer bark. Whatever the pathogen is, it seems to attack the cambium leaving the bark above, and the harder wood below intact. And since a rather thin layer is destroyed, there is very little to no softness in the sunken area.

I did not put this in my earlier post as I did not want to unduly raise expectations for the original poster. The cracked edges of the bark on the edge of the canker suggests that callus has formed and that the tree is winning, at least for now.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 3:20PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

That sunken bark is of considerable concern. To my mind, it's a huge wound and a relatively old one at that.

As has been suggested, it's a good bet the overlying bark begins to flake off next year.

I'd follow the advice to have the tree replaced while you can.

As for the guy who suggested the electrical tape, please locate a more knowledgeable source of info.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 8:05PM
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Thanks guys. I suppose I will replace this tree. I will most likely wait another month, hopefully the place I am exchanging it gets more Jap Maple Emperor 1s in stock.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 11:25AM
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