Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tar Spot on Maples

(Photo: PA Education Extension,
I spent six hours working in my yard and garden yesterday.  In a normal spring, six hours would have gone a long way toward clearing away the dead of winter, this year with a lack of fall clean up and my slow speed setting, it hardly made a dent.

Marshaling my strength, cutting back last years's detrius, then raking a and bagging a while, punctuated by dragging bags over to the municipal compost site allowed me to give different muscle groups and joints rest.  It probably also builds my stamina.

I am always reminded of the Chinese proverb, (paraphrased), "Even an ant can move a mountain, one grain at a time."

I am so totally with that ant this year.

I keep reminding myself, a gardener's best tools are their brains and powers of observation.  Typically, I at least rake my yard and clip the grass once in October.  Didn't happen last year.  Any non-weed seed bearing yard waste gets mowed up and thrown back on my beds.  Also didn't happen, same for pine straw.  So today when I was in my observation phase, it hit me that I was seeing a new to me fungal disease, tar spot, on my maple leaves.

At first I was worried it might be anthracnose, fully developed, which I possibly had never seen the full development of that fungus' fruiting bodies.  But this was clearly not the case, for which I let out a big sigh of relief.  My one maple has sentimental value and my village has a large percent of maples.  I would hate to think my injury and subsequent untidy yard proved to be a vector for a fungal decimation of a large portion of my village's trees.

The source from the UW-Madison' Botany department seemed to say this is no big deal, but that tar spot is fairly common.  Last fall I was paying special attention to maples collecting and drying their leaves and studying them for clues of their cross-breeding and origins.  It was a bit of independent study cut short by my accident.

Tar spot was not something I noticed then.  This spring as I rake up the maple leaves, it is hard to miss by someone moving slowly.  So joy, joy, a fungal disease that is not a problem...  Somehow fungal disease and not a problem do not happen too often for gardeners.  Additionally, tar spot seems to be a genus/species specific sort of disease, so it is not going to expand to my fruit trees, lilacs, and roses.  Yay!

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