Q: I planted a sugar maple a year ago. Buds had already formed when we had a hard freeze in March. The buds never opened. I only see one small group of leaves near the base of the tree. My husband wants me to replace it with a new tree.
A: Sorry to say, your tree is as close to dead as it can be and still have leaves. The leaves that appeared close to the base are called “epicormic branches”. They are a tree’s last gasp when it is under tremendous stress. I often see trees around newly built homes whose trunks are covered with epicormic branches. They have many dead limbs and will soon die due to root damage during construction.
Give your husband the challenge of planting and caring for a new tree. He’ll be delighted to dig a wide root ball and to baby it this summer.