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Past Articles Library | Trees | Plant Diseases of the Crimson King Norway Maple and How to Cure Them

The Crimson King Norway Maple is a beautiful tree that displays purple green leaves in the spring and summer.  These leaves welcome the fall with a spectacular display of bronze and dark maroon foliage.  This tree can reach a height of 45 feet and a span of 30 feet.  This tree demands its space in the landscape as a specimen plant that in itself creates wonderful shade.

As wonderful as this tree is there are a few problems with it.  First, is the size of the tree and the width of the canopy.  This tree is very shallow rooted.  What does this mean?  Well, the roots are very close to the soil surface and in doing so compete for nutrients and water.   While this may not seem like an issue, this competition can reduce the amount of grass and/or turf growing in areas around the tree.

As beautiful as the Crimson King Norway Maple is there is a unique reason to plant it in your landscaping.  This is especially true if you live in an area that is susceptible to fire.  In the landscaping industry, designing a landscape for fire prone areas is referred to as firescaping and many fire reducing designs contain Crimson King Norway Maples. 

Another use of this tree is in urban areas.  Unlike other trees, the Crimson King Norway Maple is very forgiving when it comes to highly polluted area.  It thrives in areas where other vegetation dies.  But as wonderful as it is, it does have a tendency to crack sidewalks when planted in tree lawns, which are the little areas of grass between the sidewalk and road.

Unlike other trees, this specimen only has a few problems.  This includes aphids, scale, borers, verticillium wilt, and girdling.


Aphids and maples of any variety seem to go together but how do you know if you have an aphid problem.  One indication is the response of the tree to this pest.  Maples will prematurely drop their leaves.  In doing so, if your Crimson King Norway Maple seems to be losing their leaves early, this could be an indication that you have an aphid infestation.  But do not jump to that conclusion first.  Maples can drop their leaves for other reasons such as drought and girdling.

A better indication of an aphid infestation is the sight of ants and/or honeydew.   The relationship between ants and aphids is a well known one.  Ants watch out for aphids.  They protect them from pests and help care for their eggs and young.  In exchange for this service, the aphid produces a sweet tasting substance called honeydew that the ants love.   Believe it or not, this honeydew is actually the aphids’ waste. 

While you can spray the tree with a chemical to kill the aphids, there are more earth friendly ways of dealing with this problem.  One approach is to get rid of the ants.  In doing so, the aphids have no protection.  This can be done by spraying the tree with a hard blast of water.  In reality though, this probably will not be that successful.  Another approach is to use an insecticidal soap.  But for this to be beneficial, you will need to spray the underside of the leaves.  While this does sound possible, if you have a large tree this technique is not going to work.  Homemade sprays are another approach and these are easy to make and use.  Two of my favorites are the tomato leaf spray and garlic oil spray.  To make the tomato leaf spray one will need a few ingredients, which include tomato leaves and water.  The just of this recipe is you chop tomato leaves and place them in water overnight.   Next, you strain the liquid, dilute it down with water and place it in a spray bottle.  The garlic oil spray is just as easy and requires chopped garlic that is steeped in mineral oil overnight.  Once that is done, the liquid is strained and mixed with water and a splash of liquid dish soap.   While both of these DIYs are successful they have two problems.  One is getting the spray on all the surface areas and two the fact that these sprays kill everything, which includes harmful and beneficial insects.  A better approach is to release beneficial insects into the environment.

What beneficial insects love aphids?  Well, the top three that love aphids include lacewings, hoverflies, and lady beetles.  But if you use this technique, do not combine with DIY sprays or insecticidal soaps.      


Horse chestnut scale can occasionally be a problem in Crimson King Norway Maples.  The telltale sign that you have this problem is the fluffy mass of white that can be found underneath the branches.  Horticulture oils can be used to suffocate all life stages of this insect but due to the size of this tree, this may not be possible.  A better approach is to release lady beetles into the environment. 


Borers as far as Crimson King Norway Maples are the canaries in the mine.  When a Crimson King Norway Maple becomes infected with bores, this is an indication of poor health.  While there are chemical controls that can be used, they can be tricky to apply.  You must be able to identify the bore and apply the chemical at the right lifecycle stage to be successful.  A better approach is to keep your Crimson King Norway Maple as healthy as possible.  This means feeding it an appropriate fertilizer that is high in nitrogen at the correct time.

Verticillium Wilt

Verticillium wilt and girdling can be confused since they show the same symptoms.  A true sign that you have this problem is the staining of the sapwood, which will appear olive green.  But you cannot always go by this sign since many infected branches will not show this sign.  Another indication is the wilting and dying back of branches.  If you see a combination of both, you probably have verticillium wilt.

If this issue seems to be minor, you may be able to save the tree by feeding it a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen.  Using this approach will give the tree time to repair.  On the other hand, if the problem appears to cover a large area of the tree you are fighting a battle you will not win.  Instead, of wasting time and money, the best approach is to just remove the tree.


Girdling is a common issue with the Crimson King Norway Maple.  This occurs when the root(s) wrap around the trunk.  How can you tell?  Well, take a look at the trunk.  Does it flare at the ground level?  If not or areas that do not is an indication that the roots below are girdling the trunk.  Also, the area that is being girdled may be depressed.  What can be done about this issue?  Not much really.  If you have these symptoms, just enjoy your tree.  Eventually, the roots will girdle the trunk and the tree will die.  While you can cut the girdling roots, this is a never ending battle that you will never win. 

Why girdling happen?  All maples are trees that have a shallow root system.  Unfortunately, this shallow root system is what causes this girdling.  

While this tree does have its problems, the beauty and size of it makes it a perfect specimen plant for any landscape design.

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