Maple trees look dead but loaded with seeds: Here's why and what to do

In this article from Cleveland.com, Scott Heim, district manager of Davey's Northeast Cleveland office, tells readers why the maple trees are producing so many seeds this year. 

Posted: May 29, 2015 

By Julie Washington

What's wrong with the maple trees? They look dead, and their bare branches are covered in brownish "spinner" seeds instead of leaves.

Worried homeowners across the state are calling their local OSU agriculture extension offices wanting to know why their maple trees suddenly appear dead, wrote Geauga County's OSU Extension educator Eric Draper in a recent article for the Buckeye Yard and Garden Line, an email newsletter of horticultural news and information.

Callers ask if the heavy seed production is a sign of a stressed, dying tree, Draper said, or if it forecasts an extra-cold winter.

Neither theory is correct. Blame those extra seeds on a too-warm spring.

Davey Tree Expert Co. district manager Scott Heim explained the phenomenon this way:

Every spring, maple trees produce small flowers that turn into seeds. Normally, a cold frost kills some blossoms, but this year the usual chill didn't arrive at the right time. More blossoms than usual turned to seed.

Maples, which had a limited amount of stored energy at the end of winter, weren't able to produce both seeds and leaves. The trees opted for seeds over leaves, leaving some branches bare as other trees leafed out.

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