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Sycamore Trees

Posted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:14 pm
by rjk0072
Every year about this time the sycamore trees in this area (Frederick, MD) get reddish-brown blotchy leaves. These leaves soon curl up, turn brown and fall off the tree. Some trees are much worse than others. The following spring the tree leafs our normally and appears to be a healthy tree. I fertilize and water my sycamore and it appears to be less impacted than some receiving less attention. Can you tell me what it is causing this issue and is there steps I can take to prevent it or lessen the impact on the tree? My sycamore was planted as landscaping for our new house five years ago. It has suffered this affliction from the first summer going forward. I attached a photo of a leaf in its early stage of the problem.

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Re: Sycamore Trees

Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:28 pm
by lorijones
I have seen this same problem every year on sycamore trees in our area. I think it may be a physiological issue due to the heat and perhaps dry conditions of mid to late summer. Anthracnose is a common disease of sycamores but this disease causes browning and death of developing leaves in the spring. If you aren't seeing dieback in the spring, then I doubt this problem is anthracnose.
The fact that your tree which you are fertilizing and watering is less impacted than trees that are not receiving supplemental water and fertilizer leads me to believe that it may indeed be a physiological issue due to moisture and/or heat stress. The native growing sycamores typically grow along stream banks and in bottomlands where the soil is rich and moist. In most landscape situations, these are not the conditions these trees normally receive.
Michael Dirr (noted woody plants expert) says that this is a "striking and impressive" tree in its native environment but "do not plant it". It "is constantly dropping leaves, twigs, and fruit". This is just the nature of the tree - especially when it isn't growing in its ideal conditions.
I would just keep on doing what you are doing with this tree but perhaps give it a little more water during dry periods or when the temperatures are high for extended periods. It doesn't seem to be affecting the overall health of the tree.