The Q&A Archives: Cutleaf Japanese Maple 'bloodgood' Is Dying.

Question: This tree has grown well for about 15 years. This year, the bark along the trunk is peeling
and all but four limbs have died. These four limbs have leafed out and seem healthy.
New twigs are growing, close to the ground, off the main trunk.
I can not tell if the tree may have been hit by lightning or has a disease. Nothing in
its site or care has changed. There is no indication of ill-health shown on the existing branches
or leaves. Should we cut out the central trunk above the healthy branches, leaving the
new twigs and three old, seemingly-healthy branches? By doing this, food production can
continue. If the healthy branches continue to die, they can be removed as necessary.
This would enable the new twigs to continue growing and, possibly, replace the areas
that have been removed. Or, would it be more sensible to remove the entire tree?

Answer: I'm sorry to hear about the decline of your lovely tree! 'Bloodgood' is succeptible to a stem canker disease which can cause bark splitting and dieback. I can't say for sure that this is the problem without seeing it, but your description is very accurate for this problem. It usually only attacks trees that are weakened by other conditions (growing conditions, such as poor drainage or air circulation, soil compaction, nutrient imbalance, and/or pest or mechanical injury). Go ahead and remove the dead portion of the trunk. You'll probably end up with a lopsided tree, but with judicious balanced pruning performed in winter. Good luck!

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