Fix Black Spots on Maple Leaves

Try this simple cure if your maple tree is infected with a fungus called tar spot.

What are those spots on your maple leaves? Tar spot is a fungal disease that causes black tar-like spots on the leaves of red, silver, Norway, sugar and Manitoba maples (but it doesn’t seem to affect Japanese maples). Tar spot is a foliar disease: the spores do not affect other parts of maple trees.

The fungi responsible for tar spot disease survive the winter on fallen leaves. If these leaves remain in the yard, fungal spores are spread to maple trees in the spring. Spores are produced in the remaining fallen leaves and are carried by air currents to newly emerging maple leaves.

While tar spots are unattractive, the good news is that this fungal disease does not injure the maple tree itself. Tar spots develop late enough in the growing season that they do not usually affect the health of the tree. While the fungal spores infect young leaves early in the season, they do not continue to cause new infections throughout the summer. The infections first appear a yellow or light green spots on the leaves in early summer. By late summer, the infections take on a black, tar-like appearance.

To avoid the spread of fungal spores it is best to rake the affected leaves this fall. Destroy the leaves or remove them from your yard by bagging them for municipal collection. If you ignore tar spot and allow the fallen leaves to remain on the ground through the winter, your maples will develop tar spot again next year. If, however, you remove the infected leaves from the area you reduce the chances of the tree being infected the following year. After three years of diligently raking the fallen leaves around my maple tree, this was the first year it did not show signs of tar spot infection.

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