Tree Tips: Tar Spots

The Vermilion Tree Commission has had queries and concerns from homeowners who are somewhat alarmed about blackish spots that they are seeing on their maple tree leaves.  These are a fungal infection called “tar spots.”  Not to be alarmed, and even though they look unsightly on the leaves, tar spots is basically a cosmetic problem and will not affect the overall health of the tree.  These spots are seasonal and only affect maple trees, especially Norway, red, and silver maples.

Tar spots, noticed quite visibly in late summer, actually develop in the early spring as pinpointing pale yellow spots on maple leaves.  These small dots have formed from windborne spores coming from tar spot fungi found in infected leaves that have overwintered in from the previous year.  These spots will usually grow into larger, brighter yellow circles.  As summer progresses, theses spots will turn black and thicken and will resemble a spot of tar dropped on the leaf.

Management of tar spots is basically to do nothing.  Tar spots are an all- natural, nuisance disease that looks worse than they really are.  They are basically a cosmetic problem on the tree leaves and actually have no real cure or chemical treatment.  As tar spots are growing larger in fall at a time when trees shed its leaves, the problem will soon be off the tree.  However, it should be noted that tar spot on the fallen leaves will overwinter.  In the following spring, wind will disperse the spores to newly forming leaves and the cycle will start all over.

To combat this, all leaves containing tar spots should be raked up and destroyed.  However, municipal ordinances forbid open burning, so the next best thing probably would be to bag them and put them out for trash collection.  This won’t solve the problem, but it will get infected leaves bagged and away from your property.

So if you’re “tarred” of seeing those black spots, hang on and they will be soon gone in a month or two.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Vermilion Tree Commission by contacting Anne Maiden at the Mayor’s Office at or at 440-204-2402.  You are also cordially invited to attend our monthly Tree Commission meeting which is on the second Wednesday of the month. The Tree Commission will meet at the Ritter Public Library on Wednesday, October 11, at 7:00 PM


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