10

There's this tree I've been noticing (not sure what it's called) and throughout the whole winter it has held onto its leaves that went dry in fall even under windy/rainy conditions. Since leaves dont rejuvenate themselves, how will it produce new leaves for the next season? Will they eventually fall somewhere around spring or is one supposed to remove them by hand to make room for the newer set of leaves to follow? enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

  • 8
    Whilst this may be a case of marcescence, this tree might instead be dead...check by peeling back a little of the bark or skin on the branches with your fingernail to see what its like inside - if its moist and greenish,its alive, if its brown and dry, it isn't. Check near the base too... – Bamboo Mar 18 at 12:18
  • 2
    Note I do not say to cut the tree in any way, as mentioned in an answer below - just scrape back a small bit of bark, or the outer surface, with a fingernail to check. – Bamboo Mar 18 at 22:46
  • @bamboo_ it's good that you pointed that out. I did go back to check on the tree this morning and well, it seems to be very much alive apart from a few dead twigs and branches so i guess its a marcescence (dont even know how to pronounce it) as mentioned in one of the answers. I guess all that's left is identifying the tree. I've looked up marcescence on the internet and the list is rather small so it shouldn't be that hard. – Hamid Sabir Mar 19 at 20:06
  • 1
    It might be easier to identify once it comes into leaf too... – Bamboo Mar 19 at 22:49
18

This is called Marcescence.

Some species of trees retain their old leaves longer than others, and young trees may retain them longer than old trees. In the UK, "copper beech" trees (with naturally brown or purple coloured leaves even in summer) which are sometimes used for ornamental hedges often retain the old leaves right through the winter.

It may be a defence against animals eating the tree branches in winter, if the old leaves are not so edible as the branches themselves.

You don't have to do anything to remove the leaves. New leaves will grow from new buds on the branches. The old leaves will fall off on their own, eventually.

The Wikipedia link has a picture showing new leaves on an oak tree, before the old leaves have fallen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcescence#/media/File:Marcescence_on_Quercus_rubra.jpg

  • 1
    Thanks for this! I've got an oak that does this and was always curious. Glad to know it's not an issue since it's helpful for the local birds to find shelter in the winter. – Ian MacDonald Mar 18 at 13:26
  • Not just copper beech - beeches in general do this and are sometimes used for privacy hedging as they block the view all year round – Chris H Mar 18 at 13:37
  • @ChrisH yes the beech hedge in my garden does this, and looking at it I would say this was a beech tree. – WendyG Mar 19 at 11:11
  • @alephzero_ thanks alot. I didn't think there would be a type amoung trees to hold onto their old leaves. It's kinda in a way an evergreen but with fall colours providing shade all year round. Do you think they should planted more then their more famous cousin deciduous? – Hamid Sabir Mar 19 at 20:14
  • @WendyG_ i did wanna find the name of the tree in the photos so i googled beech trees, more specifically the leaves of a beech tree and the shape of the leaves had me thinking differently as they had a sort of teeth like appearance to the edges which i dont find with the leaves on this tree. – Hamid Sabir Mar 19 at 20:19
5

The tree is probably dead, as @Bamboo has pointed out in a comment. The reason for this conclusion is that the leaves are dull, dry, and curled. In normal growth the leaf expands, does its job of keeping metabolism going and at the end of the growing period forms an abscission layer at the base of the leaf stalk. This allows the leaf to fall leaving a sealed wound that will retain moisture and be resistant to disease. In this case normal growth was interrupted before the abscission layer could be formed, so the leaves did not fall but remain stuck. The leaves reacted by curling up to conserve as much of the existing moisture as possible, but failed to pull in water to replace what it was losing.

In the case of leaves designed to healthily remain on over the winter, as with evergreens and exceptions to the general rule of leaves falling early, the leaves remain turgid and bright, swollen little balloons that retain their shape and lustre much longer into the following year.

There could be many reasons for the sudden interruption of water to the plant: bark girdling at the base, planting too late into the season, drought, poison such as watering with high salt water. I'm sorry to bear bad news possibly; follow the recommendation to cut into some twigs and see if you see some green or an alternative test would be to simply bend over a twig and see how far you can distort it before it breaks. If it bends smoothly and springs back my reasoning is wrong. Let's think positively.

  • 1
    Judging from the rest of the ground in the picture, this doesn't look like a place where a tree (or anything else) would grow. It could have been planted in hopes it would grow, or planted in a container and not watered. It really does look dead. – JPhi1618 Mar 18 at 15:34
  • 3
    The dead appearance can come from stresses like you described, but the ultimate indicator of tree death is the lack of any buds. If there are buds, the tree could still live. It's hard to tell from these photos, but it looks like there are still some buds. – cr0 Mar 18 at 15:44
  • 1
    @JPhi1618 It could have been planted in hopes it would grow - Yes. In some cultures people plant trees ON graves so that the living tree will continue "praying" for the soul of the deceased. And it provides shade for the grave (such trees are never meant to overgrow the grave) – slebetman Mar 19 at 8:30
  • My full beech hedge does this every year please see @ale answer – WendyG Mar 19 at 11:10
  • @colin beckingham_Thanks alot. Thats good observation and it would make an excellent answer had this been a deciduous tree which I've confirmed it not to be as per your advise. It's alive. Secondly, your reasoning for the tree being rather dead is based on the dull curled up appearance of the leaves. Perhaps you had a certain species in mind but while i was reading up on the term "marcescence", i came across leaves that had a very similar apperance to the leaves in the photos. I'll leave a link below.michigannatureguy.com/blog/2017/04/03/marcescence – Hamid Sabir Mar 20 at 20:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.