Norway Maple Tree Needs Help!

Thomas Bjorkman Thomas_Bjorkman at
Thu May 20 06:57:16 EST 1993

In article <C78IA6.184 at> frederick.sitter,
fritz at writes:
>I've got an old Norway Maple tree in my back yard that appears
>to be dying.  It has lots of dead limbs and its leaves are
>small - even for this early in the year.  Plus, there are
>several clumps of "helicopter" seeds that it has not released.  

I have some comments about sugar maples that may be relevant to your
tree.  First, maples in urban landscapes tend not to get that old, and
seventy years is an age where they begin to show some senescence of the
type you describe.  Second, a leading cause of early senility in maples
is soil compaction around the tree.  This compaction can easily be the
result of mowing the lawn week in and week out, especially when the soil
is moist.  While the girdling root may have been a problem, the lack of
good feeder roots could be a bigger one.  The feeder roots are often
distributed about at the drip line of the tree, in the top 2 inches of
soil.  In the forest, there would be a lot of decomposing leaves and duff
providing good growing conditions for the roots and nutrients for them to
absorb.  In most landscapes, this layer is full of lawn roots that
compete with them.  

If your maple is surrounded by lawn, you would probably make it healthier
if you removed the lawn under the tree and replaced it with a natural
mulch (leaves, straw, shredded bark).  That way, there would be much less
competition with the tree, and you wouldn't need to drive on its toes all
the time.  Planting spring bulbs would add some aesthetic value without
interfering.  If you want to go further, add some shade-tolerant
(understory) perennials: Kalmia, Rhododendron, hosta.

This tree may be too far gone for a good recovery, but you can probably
get many more years of enjoyment from it.

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