During 2004, a record number of maple trees succumbed to Verticillium Wilt, a soil borne fungus that enters trees through the root system. It attacks the inside, producing toxins and spores, and invading the water-conducting (vascular) system. This hinders the upward flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves and branches. In severe cases, it can lead to the death of a tree.
Patrick Parker, Director of Plant Health Care stated, “The disease may be more prevalent this year because of recent years of droughts and difficult winters, stressing trees and making them more susceptible to infection; the wet weather this year may help move the disease through the soil and increase the germination rate.”
Is your tree affected? Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Pale, dull foliage, smaller then normal leaves, brown or scorched foliage
- Prematurely falling leaves
- Branch dieback
- Poor annual growth and/or heavy seed set
Branches may be affected on one side only or randomly throughout the canopy. Further study of the sapwood often shows discolored streaks of brown to green to black depending on tree species. The Verticillium fungus can survive in soil for many years. Once the fungus becomes established it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to control. So, prevention is key. Sanitation pruning of diseased branches, proper watering and fertilization may help limit the spread and severity of this disease.
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