Sparse growth on Maple Tree

(Question)

I have about a 14 yr. old sugar maple in my yard. It has had leaf tar which I removed all leaves from the ground. However this year and last, the new growth is sparse and some branches have only a few new leaves at the tip while the rest of the branch is barren. My neighbours also have lovely huge maples and mine looks sad next to theirs. Any ideas? I hate to cut it down when it is just right size now!

(Answer)

Tar spot, although ugly, rarely threatens the health of trees, so I suspect that something else is going on. We need a bit more information in order to diagnose the problem.

I’m providing you a link to research papers on common causes of maple tree decline here.  Have a look and see if any of the issues described matches the conditions for your tree. It is possible that what you thought was tar spot was actually anthracnose.

Please also inspect the tree carefully for signs of disease, fungal infections, physical damage or insects and get back to us with more detailed information if none of the University documents to which I’ve linked help you solve the mystery.  Post a picture of what you find and we will try to identify the problem for you.