Trees Not Dropping Their Leaves?

We have been receiving calls and emails from clients asking why their trees seem to be hanging on to brown, dried out leaves. In some instances, as you can see in the photo, some trees are still ‘in color’. It’s November 20th folks.

The photo shows approximately 15 trees both large and small. Only two of the trees, one on the top left and one in the background have lost their leaves. All of the others are surprisingly still in color and/or retaining brown leaves.

The trees in the photo happen to belong to myself, Craig Casino, owner of Tree Green. I have lived on this property over 30 years and have never seen this occur to this extent before. Usually by Thanksgiving 99% of all leaves are on the ground. This year that will not be the case for many trees, not even close.

What causes this situation and does it indicate a problem?

There is a name for this occurrence…Marcescence. While marcescence is a normal occurrence for Beech trees it also occasionally occurs in different varieties of Oak, Pear and Ironwood on a more frequent basis. What’s different about this year is that it is occurring on Maples and many other varieties of trees. And, it’s not limited to trees. Certain bushes are doing the same thing.

I could go into a long, detailed explanation on a leaf’s ‘abscission layer’ which ‘unglues’ the leaf from the tree but that isn’t really necessary. All that is truly known is that early cold and frost (which we certainly saw this year) can interfere with this normal process and create the leaf retention occurrence that we are seeing now. No one has ever been able to figure out what a trees purpose for doing this actually is. Experts seem to agree however that this does not indicate any particular stress or weakness within the tree.

What to expect now?

If you have a tree or trees doing this, leaves may finally sporadically disengage from the tree throughout the Winter. Many leaves will remain on the tree all Winter long and into the Spring and not fall until a new flush of fresh growth ‘unglues’ them and pushes them from the tree. This will obviously create extra Spring cleanup.

As always we try to keep you informed as to what we are seeing and answer questions that you might be curious about.

We hope you have a wonderful upcoming holiday season with family and friends.