Neglected Maple



New Member
Jul 21, 2021
Piedmont NC
I have what I believe is a Red Maple at a house I bought 2 years ago. In those 2 years it has lost a considerable amount of wood during storms. My gut says this tree was damaged early in its life. Wood Ear mushrooms or Jelly Mushrooms are frequently on the sticks that fall out and the larger branches that have fallen across the yard are hollow. I want to preserve the tree but am unsure of the cause of distress and course of action. Also, if pruning is involved, I am unsure which of the three main branches are the leader. Some details about the tree then a few specific questions...

The DBH of the tree is 10', this is also the point at which the tree diverges into 3 main branches 2 of which are about 3' diameter, the third one is smaller and all of them branch again within 8' of the first split. Also, the 3 branches have been tied together with some steel cable, turnbuckles, and eye bolts. The main crotch "bowl" of the tree was full of expandable foam and another "black tar" coating over that when I bought the property (an effort to waterproof?). I don't know if this is of any concern whatsoever, but there is also a community of chipmunks that have excavated a Ho Chi Minh style tunnel system around the base of the tree. It extends way around the root plate, probably 15' from the bole, but I have no idea how deep. My assumption is that they can introduce all kinds of things to the roots that wouldn't naturally be there in soil; air, water, poop, urine, bugs, decaying food scraps...all the microbes that travel on those things.

* Is there too much weight at the extremities and not enough support at the trunk? (Probably yes if wood keeps falling?)
* How much concern should I have about water collection at the main crotch that is 5' off the ground?
* Do I start hunting chipmunks?
* If I have to prune it, do I use the 50% of diameter rule to identify which of the 4 main branches is the leader? (2 of those first branches are about equal)
* Does the root pic raise any red flags about girdling?


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ArboristSite Operative
May 3, 2012
please leave the chipmunks. they are beneficial in all aspects of the environment. whatever you do, do it over the course of a couple years. i would be thinking 5 year plan if you plan on making major changes to a tree that big (other than taking it down).


Penguins are tasty
Jun 3, 2012
In your case it's best to do less than more. Mature trees don't like aggressive changes. My recommendation is get an qualified arborist out to do dead wood pruning and assess branch structure for possible cable supports. All other items you listed are non issues.