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'Tar Spots' Causing Maple Leaves to Fall Early

Fungal disease doesn't kill the tree, Haddon Nursery expert tells city DPW director.

The weather is cooler and leaves are changing colors and falling early, Fenton area residents are noticing. But it's maple tree leaves that are hitting the ground, due to a fungal disease called tar spot that is affecting many maples in the city of Fenton, Department of Public Works Director Daniel Czarnecki said.

Czarnecki contacted in Fenton for information, after learning maple trees in Oakwood Cemetery were losing their leaves. Art Vance, from Haddon Nursery, came out and inspected the infected trees, giving Czarnecki information on what is causing it.

Usually, leaves don't fall until another month. But tar spot in maple trees makes leaves turn brown and causes round to irregular black, tar-like spots on them. It doesn't affect all maples, and Ann Arbor experienced the problem a year ago.

In the maples it does affect, tar spot is caused by two species of fungus, Czarnecki said. It shouldn’t affect the overall health of a tree, but it does affect their appearance.

"As I drive around town I am now noticing this disease to be widespread," he said. "If I’m seeing it I’m sure there are others in the community that see it as well."

Councilwoman Cheryl King said it has affected all of the maple trees in her neighborhood, Apple Tree Lane.

The spots become most noticeable in late summer as the leaves turn brown and fall earlier than usual, Czarnecki said. As the leaves fall, the fungus stays on them and survives through the winter.

"In the spring, spores are produced within the black spots on the old leaves and are carried by air currents to the young maple leaves where they start new infections," he said. 

The best way to control tar spot on maple trees is to rake up fallen leaves and destroy them or remove them from the yard, he said. Thus, city staff need to look at picking up the leaves from maples on Fenton property, and disposing of them.

Glenn Fischer August 26, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Thank you for publishing this. I was wondering what was going on!

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