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9/23/2009 2:44:00 PM
Maple Leaf Problems? Rake 'Em, Compost 'Em
By Joe Gelarden

Did a favorite maple tree shed it leaves early?

Tree experts say they may have been infected with a fungus called tar spot and or another called anthracnose, but don't worry.

"The bottom line is one year's infection probably won't kill the tree," said Mark Hutchinson, an associate professor at the University of Maine Cooperative extension service for Knox and Lincoln County.

Tar spot affects Norway maple, while anthracnose seems to want to find trees that are more ornamental, those in short lines, or single trees, he said.

This year, with its severe rain conditions, has been a bad year for some maples. However, Hutchinson said conditions should not affect sugar maples or the state's maple syrup industry.

"Anthracnose affects ornamental trees or single trees, but not those in maple groves, so the maple syrup folks will probably not be affected," he said.

Hutchinson said in most cases, maples drop their leaves after they have already made the sugars from the sun and sent them down to the roots. In the spring, the tree will draw the nutrients to the buds so they will form leaves and the cycle starts again.

In the event a favored maple has dropped its leaves early, Hutchinson advises cleaning up around the tree sooner than later.

"Rake them up and get them out of there, so the bad stuff is taken away," said Hutchinson. "Take them to a transfer station or compost them," he said.

"The composting process will kill the spores and other fungi. You will probably put the compost on flowers or crops and these diseases don't affect these crops," he said.

Hutchinson says it is probably not a good idea to put this compost under the maple trees, however.

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