P&PDL Picture of the Week for
October 7, 2013

My Red Maple is Yellow!

John Orick, Purdue Master Gardener State Coordinator, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Since moving to West Lafayette, I’ve noticed numerous red maple trees with leaves showing interveinal chlorosis (yellowing between the veins due to a lack of chlorophyll). Soil compaction, root damage, and poor drainage are some of the causes for this symptom displayed by many plant species. In these photos, interveinal chlorosis is most likely due to a manganese deficiency. High alkaline soils cause micronutrients (nutrients required in smaller quantities for plant growth and development) like iron, manganese, and zinc to be less available for plant uptake and growth. Pin oak, red maple, river birch, flowering dogwood, and many other species grown in high pH soils are sensitive to micronutrient deficiencies and respond with symptoms of chlorosis, brown lesions on the leaves, premature leaf drop, poor flowering or fruiting, stunted growth, die-back in the tree canopy, and plant death. \

Many homeowners ask, “How can I treat my yellowing trees?” Treatment options suggested for this condition vary and are temporary. Most recommended treatments only supplement the nutrient deficiency rather than correcting soil conditions such as pH level, compaction, or drainage contributing to the condition.

Here are some suggested treatment options:

  • Foliar sprays containing iron and manganese sulfates or chelates
  • Trunk implantations of micronutrient powder or capsules containing micronutrient supplements
  • Trunk injections of micronutrient chelate solutions
  • Soil treatments with micronutrient chelate solutions

These treatment options are explained further in the articles and publications referenced in this article. The best prevention for this common plant problem is to:

  • Obtain a soil test from a certified soil test lab (see list below)
  • Know the soil pH level for the proposed planting site
  • Choose a plant species adapted for the location

Click image to enlarge

Photo 1: Red maple located in West Lafayette, IN showing interveinal chlorosis- Photo taken by John Orick

Photo 2: Chlorotic red maple located in West Lafayette, IN showing dieback- Photo taken by John Orick

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service