by Leslie Cox; Saturday; October 26, 2019

I so love my large maple tree in the front garden…apart from the fact the original property owners planted the young tree too close to the power lines back in the mid-1960s.

Maples are truly a majestic tree and the silverleaf maple, Acer saccharinum, is no different. Unfortunately, with a height reaching 80 feet (24.5 m) and a spread of up to 70 feet (21.5 m), this tree can be a little out of place in a normal size lot. But since we inherited the tree when we bought the property, we have learned to live and let live. So far.

But it is getting a little more difficult as time marches on. In 1984, the silverleaf maple was a respectable tree at roughly 15 feet (4.5 m) tall. By the fall of 2000, the maple tree was at least three times the height of our house…somewhere near 45 – 50 feet (13.5 – 15 m) tall. Today, the tree must be getting close to 80 feet (24.5 m).

Close proximity to the power lines means the tree receives regular pruning treatment to keep its branches away from the wires. Unfortunately. Not only is the symmetry of this majestic tree thrown off kilter but remove a branch from a maple and it will throw out multiple new shoots from the cut. So now our tree has grown multiple Medusa heads. Not the look I really was looking for in my front garden.

But that is not all. The leaves on this maple have been showing hard bumps on the upper side for the last several years. They are maple bladder galls, or Vasates quadripedes, and are just as ugly as the Medusa branches.

These mushroom-shaped galls are formed by the female bladder gall mites feeding on the swelling buds which causes the leaves to grow masses of excess cells…thus producing galls to encase the mites. Eggs are laid inside the gall, the young hatch and feed on the gall tissue and when they reach full adult size, they leave the gall through the underside of the leaf and start searching for a suitable overwintering place in the crevices of the tree trunk.

Thankfully, the galls on the leaves do not impact too much on the photosynthesis process so the health of the tree is not in too much danger. But the galls are definitely unsightly…even without the hideous Medusa branches.