Silver maple trunk diseased? #816974

Asked November 28, 2022, 10:02 AM EST

We have a silver maple whose trunk does not look right. We did not notice any difference in the health of the leaves this year, but something is eating away at the trunk. Please see attached pictures.

Chittenden County Vermont

Expert Response

Thank you for your query and very clear photographs, Jamie!

Your Silver Maple clearly has a canker (sunken dead area).

I apologize for taking a day to check with the professor who heads our Extension Plant Pathology lab.  She offers this information:

"Cankers can be caused by mechanical injury or fungal/bacterial diseases, winter damage, etc. It is impossible to tell what has caused this one but there is no cure for cankers other than letting the tree try to heal itself. Removing any bark that is trapping water is a good practice so there can not be any further rot. Silver maples are typically weak trees so are very prone to these issues. If the canker surrounds the tree, it interrupts the flow of water and nutrients upwards and the upper part of the tree will die. If there is still intact bark and water-conducting cells, the tree can live many years with this damage."

There are different types of cankers, but to give you a fair idea of what you're dealing with here, this is one of the common ones that affect Silver Maples, the Eutypella Canker:

Several factors might affect your decision(s) about what to do here:
  • Does this maple threaten your home if it were to topple over/lose branches in a storm?
  • Do you have other maples you want to protect from canker infection?  
  • How important is this maple to your landscape?
One option you have is to simply let nature take its course:  the tree may live for many more years and you can watch it for signs of decline.  I.e.:  if the canker extends to the point that the tree can't send water and nutrients up through it's phloem (a tree's "artery" system for fluids sits right behind the bark), then you'll start to see leaf & branch die-off.  

But if your home is at risk and/or you want to protect other maples on your property, then you might want to engage an arborist.  

This web site (included on our "Gardener Resources" tree listings at our website) can help you find a certified local Vermont Arborist:

This is a worldwide tool (from the International Society of Arborculture) so you need to drill down to local arborists.  I recommend using the "Location" options - United States...Vermont...then your zip code.  

I hope this is helpful and am glad that you reached out to us here.

Robilee Smith

Robilee Smith Replied November 29, 2022, 9:57 PM EST

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