Japanese maple trees are often understory trees in their native habitats. Over-exposure to sun can result in brown leaves. A hot summer can leave even established Japanese maple trees that are too exposed to sun with brown leaves, especially if other debilitating factors are present.
Such factors include lack of water, too much fertilizer, or even some physical damage to the root system -- whether caused by pests, heavy traffic, or digging. Any of these factors can stress out the plant, making it susceptible to sun damage during a hot summer.
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