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Article from Star Tribune, September 12, 2017, Sick Maple Trees 'becoming epidemic' in Minnesota
Many of the maple trees in distress are suffering from root girdling, a condition in which roots grow around another root or the trunk, eventually strangling the tree. “It pinches off the vascular system so it can’t provide nutrients to the tree,” McDonald said.
Maples are prone to root girdling because they have fast-growing, shallow root systems. The condition is becoming more common because most trees sold at nurseries and garden centers are now grown in containers (as opposed to a field), resulting in roots that have already begun to spiral before the tree is even purchased and planted.Advice for future planting -- work the roots first!
If you do have to remove a maple tree and want to replant, there’s no reason not to plant another maple. If it’s container-grown, make sure to unwind the roots before planting. “Flare them out, like an octopus,” Branhagen advised.Here's a University of Minnesota publication [PDF] with lots of pictures of sad root systems.