Tree Health #637003 - Ask Extension


Tree Health #637003

Asked May 17, 2020, 7:00 PM EDT

We have this tree I our front yard (unknown, picture attached) that has a few dead branches that seem to be spreading. What is the best course of action to keep the tree healthy? Any advice / insight is appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Wayne County Michigan

Expert Response

This is a maple tree. Is this the first year you have noticed dead branches? Did these limbs hold brown leaves last year?

Your tree may be suffering from verticillium wilt, a soil-borne fungal disease which causes wilting of leaves and dieback of branches, often one at a time or on one side of the tree. This can occur over a number of years, with remission of symptoms in some years, or can rapidly progress to plant death in a year
or two. Other symptoms of Verticillium wilt may include: marginal browning and scorch of leaves, abnormally large seed crops, small leaves, stunting, poor annual growth, and sparse foliage. Your tree looks well leafed out, so this is possibly something else.

This looks like a beautiful tree and is no doubt important to you. Your best resource for diagnosing and treating your tree is to consult a certified arborist. An arborist is a certified and generally insured expert in trees and their problems. He or she can examine your tree and make recommendations regarding the health of the tree, any needed judicial pruning, and whether or not (in his opinion) it should be removed. You can find a certified arborist in your area here:

 Click on "Find an Arborist" at the top of the page; then click on United States from the pull-down menu. Then enter your State and City. This should bring up a list of certified arborists nearest to you. Or you may be able to locate one under "Tree Services" in your local Yellow Pages.

An arborist will also understand the proper protocol for disposing of infected trees and proper disinfection of tools.. Since immediate removal of infected trees is not necessary, you may want to first (even before consulting an arborist) consider confirming the disease through testing at the MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics Lab (

Michigan State University Plant & Pest Diagnostics is still processing mail-in samples (but not in-person drop off samples) during the coronavirus pandemic. Here is the proper protocol:

For plant health assessment samples and plant identification, please send a preliminary email to with digital images to see if a diagnosis/identification can be made without a physical sample. Please remember to photograph the injury symptoms both up close and at a distance, as well as include details on any patterns, timing, chemical applications, etc. Include a close-up photo of some leaves also. This is the same information typically requested on the MSU PPD submittal form.  

Also check out the following links:

Sharon Globig Replied May 20, 2020, 12:58 PM EDT

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