UACES Facebook Maple (General)
skip to main content

Maple (General)

November 17, 2018


My maple tree is planted in a bed at the corner of my yard and is surrounded by a rock wall on two sides. The roots are exposed and I am concerned that they should be covered with dirt   I had planned to add mulch but question if that is sufficient to protect the tree. Your thoughts?



IMaple trees are prone to surface roots.  The best thing to do is just cover with mulch. Adding more soil is just a Band-Aid, and more roots will resurface. If you keep adding soil every time you see an exposed root, you may end up burying the tree too deeply.  


November 4, 2017


I live in Hot Springs Village. I have a large maple tree that is probably 70+ feet tall plus 9 large oak trees. The maple has been shedding leaves all summer and appears to have many dead branches that never produced leaves. There is no bleeding near the base and no sign of insects. Part of the root system is under my lawn so it gets plenty of water. I had someone come look at it and he found no evidence of disease.  I am thinking of removing it because I think it is dying. What do you think?



It sounds like your tree is definitely stressed.  Trees often take a long time to completely die.  You have several options.  One is remove it now.  You can also wait until next spring and assess how much life is left in the tree.  If there is less than 50% life left in it, remove it; if there is still enough life left in it, then prune out the deadwood and see what happens.  Maples do like moisture.  It sounds like you have plenty of shade, so losing one tree may not be a huge loss, but I try to save as many trees as possible.


January 23, 2016

QuestionThese are pictures of the trunk of a maple tree approximately 20 years old. Do you know what has damaged it and if it will live. We lost another maple several years ago I think it did the same thing. Thank you. This is only on one side of the tree.


 AnswerThe pictures you sent showed a lot of decayed wood towards the base of the tree, but did not show the overall tree.   I would say the damage did not occur recently.  As to the lifespan of the tree, a lot will be determined in the spring when the tree leafs out. I have seen trees that were hanging on by a thread of wood and still had a full upper canopy.  I would also assess where the tree is in relation to your house and/or patio.  If it has any height, this tree could pose a hazard, since it is at least 1/3 hollow if not more.  Any high winds could cause it to topple, so you may want to cut your losses and plant a new tree.  


 (October 2015)

Question My sunset maple tree is dropping leaves. The tree has been watered. The back side of leaves have a lot of black on them, but no insects seem to be present. The tree gets plenty of sunshine. This is the first time this has happened since the tree was planted about 5 years ago when it was two inches trunk diameter. I noticed where the leaves are attached to the branch, it appears that new buds may be getting ready to grow and open as new leaves. Any idea and or comments what this is and what to do?

AnswerAs long as the leaves are dropping I would not worry.  I worry when leaves die, curl up and remain attached.  We have had early leaf shed this year statewide. It started as early as August.  Rake up the leaves and dispose and monitor the tree next spring when it begins to grow.  The tree should have its replacement buds present, which is also a good sign.  They shouldn’t be growing yet, but waiting for spring.


November 2014

QuestionWhen is the best time to trim some limbs off of a maple tree that is about 4 or 5 years old? It needs a good shaping up.

Answer If you know which limbs you want to remove, go ahead and prune now. Often it is easier to see what needs to be done when there are no leaves on the tree.  If you are dead-wooding (removing dead limbs) you typically need to wait until they leaf out to know what is dead and what is alive.    Make sure you remove the limbs at the branch collar and make a nice clean cut.  No pruning paints or wound dressings are needed. 


February 2012

QuestionI am very interested in planting two types of trees in my yard in Maumelle. I wanted one that produces a brilliant red leaf in the fall and recently bought an October Glory Maple. I want the other one to produce a brilliant yellow leaf in the fall. I’ve done some research on the internet and some that have been mentioned are Ginkgo tree, but I’m not particularly in favor of this one. Others are Golden Sycamore, Silver Maple, Sugar Maple, and Sweet Gum. Janet, would your recommendation any one of these, or do you believe another would be a better choice for what I want to accomplish?

AnswerGingko’s have the prettiest yellow fall color, but they can be slow to get established. Once they do, they are great. Tulip poplars have decent yellow fall color, and thornless honey locust trees are a good yellow. I would avoid silver maple, and the sugar maple is not as well adapted in central Arkansas as it is up north. It can have yellow, red or orange fall color. Same with the sweetgums—I see way more orange and red pigmentation than yellow usually. Another option is the yellowwood tree, but it is also a little slow to establish. Choosing a tree for planting in the fall when it has its fall color, can also help you get one that suits your needs, but that would mean waiting another year.

November 2011

QuestionWe planted an Autumn Blaze maple tree to honor of the birth of our first granddaughter in October 2007. It is planted in full sun and did thrive for the first two years. Then, it simply died the third year. However, during the fourth year, about five or six suckers came up around the original tree. When should I choose the best of the suckers and cut back the others? One of these must make it, my granddaughter, now 4 years old, knows that this is "her" tree. It is so important to us that this little tree continue to thrive in spite of the death of the main tree.

AnswerIn the spring, when the tree begins to leaf out and you can assess the healthiness of the sprouts, then choose the strongest, straightest one, and prune all the others out. Make sure you keep it watered and mulched. If the tree was grafted, this could be a root sucker from beneath the graft union, but it will still be a red maple, it just may not be the named cultivar. Over the next few years, you may need to do some pruning to train it back into tree form.

November 2010

QuestionMy wife and I viewed the most beautiful red maple we've ever seen on the grounds of the big Heber Springs dam viewing area just off the highway over the dam. This was about a month ago. We asked dam employees and area nurseries about its varietal name but no one knew other than it was a maple. The tree is conical. The leaf coloration is not red. It was a more subdued light red, with a distinctive orange, perhaps light pinkish tone. The tree has been planted as a specimen tree and has no other trees near it. Could you please specify quite precisely what it is and where we might obtain these trees?

AnswerMy bet is that it is a common red maple, Acer rubrum. The maples this year have been glorious in their fall color. However, just because it is a red maple does not mean it will be red in the fall. Some varieties turn orange, yellow or a variety of shades of red. Some actually have little fall color. If you want to purchase a fall foliaged red maple for your yard you need to buy it in the fall when it is in its fall color. There are named cultivars such as 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Flame' and 'October Glory' which are guaranteed to have fall color, but you can get some outstanding color from seedling maples, it just isn't a guarantee. Weather also plays a role, but if you buy a tree with good fall color, it should have it annually.

May 2009

QuestionHelp!! We planted a sugar maple tree last May. It is about 10 to 12' tall. The leaves fell off early & so far this year we have not had any new leaves. How do we tell if it is dead or not? What should we do?

AnswerBy now, all trees should have leafed out. If you see no signs of any new growth, I would say it is a goner. Did you water it well last season after you planted? Do you have any idea why the tree defoliated early? Keep in mind that trees utilize a lot of water, but they don’t want to stand in water either—good drainage is essential. Sugar maples are best grown in the northern tier of Arkansas, as they can struggle in hot, dry summers. Last summer, however was milder than most with more than average water, so I would investigate. When you take the tree up, look at the root system—did it grow and expand? Could it have been planted too deep? Before replanting another tree, I would try to get some idea of what happened.

October 2008

QuestionI have a sugar maple, ‘Autumn Blaze’ about five years old in my front yard facing the south. It is at least 10 to 15 feet tall. I recently noticed an area close to the bottom of the tree about 7 or 8 inches from the ground that is bleeding a black substance. Is this usual or should I be concerned?

AnswerOne of two things can be happening. Maples are notorious for “bleeding” sap from any wound. If something wounded the tree such as a weed eater or lawn mower, this could simply be the case and is nothing to worry about. The other scenario could be wetwood or slime flux, which is caused by a bacteria. Gasses and liquid by-products of the bacteria cause the internal pressure of the sap to increase, forcing the liquid to ooze out any opening along the tree. It tends to have a sour or fermented smell to it and is quite attractive to insects. It can be dark in color or white and foamy. While it doesn’t signal imminent death, it does tell you the tree is stressed. Keep the tree as healthy as possible with regular watering. Try to use your garden hose to remove the sap from the trunk of the tree as the fermented sap can be damaging to the trunk of your tree if left there. This problem is usually more common during spring and summer.

December 2008

QuestionWe purchased an October Glory maple tree about three years ago and it is now about 10 to 12 feet tall. On your radio show, I heard you say that lower branches will always stay low and not grow upwards with the height of the tree. Is it time to trim the limbs to about six or seven feet off of the ground?

AnswerThere has been some debate recently about how long to leave the lower limbs attached, as they help the tree manufacture food and aid in root establishment. If possible, leaving the lower limbs attached for two to three years is advisable. However, if the tree is in the yard and you need to walk under it, then by all means go ahead and remove the lower limbs at the branch collar. Since your tree has been in the ground for three years, I don't see any issues with removing the lower limbs now. Limbs will never grow higher than where they are currently attached, since new limbs grow from the top of the tree—the tree does not continue to raise up out of the ground. No pruning paints or wound dressings are needed after pruning, just make sure you have a nice clean cut and the tree should be fine.

September 2006

QuestionAbout 17 years ago we planted a tree in celebration of my son getting his Sturgis scholarship to University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. We knew nothing about trees! We bought and planted what was tagged as a Silver Maple. A few years later during a holiday get-together at our house, we were showing off the tree we planted to our relatives. My sister-in-law informed us that the tree was not a Silver Maple because the back of the leaves were not silver-shaded-- it was just a Maple tree. We were a little disappointed but the tree was very straight and thriving very healthfully! Today it is a beautiful shade tree. With strong branches and roots! It is beside my husband's garage and has to be trimmed occasionally. But the roots are huge and on top of the ground! They are very unsightly! Is there anything we can do to cover up the roots? My daughter-in-law said that if we covered them with top soil that the tree might die. Any suggestions?

AnswerBe grateful it is not a silver maple--they are often considered trash trees. They grow so fast that they often have a lot of limb breakage. A red maple is a much more sturdy and desirable tree. All maples have the tendency to put roots on the soil surface. Your best bet would be to add an extra layer of mulch to cover the exposed roots. This looks more attractive and won't hurt the tree. You could also put a vining type groundcover underneath--planted in pockets of soil, but the mulch bed is the easiest to maintain.

All links to external sites open in a new window. You may return to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture web site by closing this window when you are finished. We do not guarantee the accuracy of the information, or the accessibility for people with disabilities listed at any external site.

Links to commercial sites are provided for information and convenience only. Inclusion of sites does not imply University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's approval of their product or service to the exclusion of others that may be similar, nor does it guarantee or warrant the standard of the products or service offered.

The mention of any commercial product in this web site does not imply its endorsement by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture over other products not named, nor does the omission imply that they are not satisfactory.