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Acer problem

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Question from Karren Towgood


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I planted an acer sango kaku at the begining of April. Initially it did well, but in the last month has started developing problems. I first noticed that the leaves on some of the branches were turning brown and dying. When I inspected the tree there were black marks on the bark like it had been scorched. These are flat marks, and don't appear to be a fungus. After a few days these marks turn lighter brown, as can be seen in the pictures. All the brances that arise out of this dark area appear to die. I did wonder about water logging, but that doesn't appear to be a problem. We also had a problem with some tiny red spider insects which I have sprayed with provado. Any suggestions as to what the problem is and any solutions would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to lose the tree!

Acer problem (07/06/2010)

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  • Views: 2188
  • Replies: 5
  • Posted: Mon. 7th June 2010 12:06

Re: Acer problem

Reply from Katy Elton

Hi Karren,

It’s quite normal for acers to experience some dieback, particularly this variety, however this does look fairly extreme. Could it be something to do with where the tree is sited? Acers like to be sheltered and protected from the elements – is yours sheltered at all? It could be down to stress and damage caused from being exposed to strong winds.

Another possibility, which I hope isn’t the case, is the dreaded verticillium wilt http://www.shootgardening.co.uk/plant/disease/verticillium-wilt. Acers are particularly prone to this. A quick way of checking whether this is the culprit is by pruning off one of the affected branches. If there is black marking within the tissue then this may be the case.

Let us know if either of these possibilities sound familiar.

  • Posted: Thu. 10th June 2010 14:12

Re: Re: Acer problem

Reply from Karren Towgood

Hi Katy,

Thanks so much for your reply. It is planted in a very sheltered position -it is in a small garden sheltered by our house, fences and several taller trees in neighbouring properties. All the other trees and plants nearby seem to be thriving.

We did wonder if perhaps we hadn't planted in properly and some sort of root damage could be the cause of the problem? I have tried to inspect the roots. They seem to be quite fine on the surface, but other than that OK - but I don't really know what I am looking for when it comes to roots!

We also did wonder about wilt and have had a look at some sections, but no sign of any markings within the tissue - just on the outside of the branches.

Is there anything we could be doing to nurse it back to good health?

Thanks for your advice,

  • Posted: Thu. 10th June 2010 14:47

Re: Re: Re: Acer problem

Reply from Katy Elton

Hi Karren,

I would say for now just try pruning off the affected areas where possible, keep regularly watered (not too much but just evenly moist), give it a liquid feed, perhaps mulch with some well rotted organic matter, and see if there is any improvement.

If it persists or gets worse it may be worth sending a sample to the RHS pest and disease identification service (for members) to get an expert opinion. Alternatively you could try showing cuttings and/or photos to wherever you purchased the tree, and seeing if they can offer any suggestions.

Hope this helps!

  • Posted: Fri. 11th June 2010 10:34

Re: Acer problem

Reply from Doug Donaldson


I'm having the exact same problem as you, almost one year later. (I'm in the U.S.) I planted my tree in April, and in May the leaves wilted and bark became black. My arborist wants to replant another since I have a guarantee from the nursery. However, I'm worried it might die too if I don't know what's causing this.

  • Posted: Fri. 3rd June 2011 18:54

Re: Acer problem

Reply from Sybil

I have my acer in a pot. I planted last year. It came through the winter OK. I moved it to what I thought was a sheltered position in spring, since when it has gone downhill. I have now moved it to a corner where it is surrounded by other pots it case it is a problem with wind - we have a very cold and windy spring. I would like to know if I should prune down the old stems and should I give the pot a feed and if so, what.

  • Posted: Wed. 16th May 2012 14:41