BOSTON (CBS) – December is here and you probably have noticed many trees still have leaves. In fact, you can usually set your clock by the annual cycle of leaves! The changing color followed by a major leaf drop. This year is different.

“There’s a process called abscission that happens in the fall with all trees. A layer of cells forms at the base of the stem, the twig. And that’s a thickening wall layer that stops the flow of water and nutrients,” says MCLP Supervisor at Lynch Landscaping, Thomas Ellrott.

leaves Dead Leaves Stuck On Trees Could Cause Damage

Leaves still on tree in December (WBZ-TV)

That’s what causes the leaves to fall.

“This year the plants kept growing because they were optimizing that water and warm weather. Then we had a major cold front come through. Like a hard freeze which killed that cell tissue. And therefore the abscission essentially stopped,” says Ellrott.

There is a term for this phenomenon, marcescence. Essentially many of the dead leaves, which are typically shed, are stuck on our trees. The problem is that once we get some snow there is more surface area to bear the load.

leaves2 Dead Leaves Stuck On Trees Could Cause Damage

Leaves still on a tree in December (WBZ-TV)

“If it’s a wet, kind of nor’easter kind of storm, you could see some damage. Branches breaking, and whatnot. There’s not a whole lot you can do,” says Ellrott.

Once spring rolls around, it may help to add some nitrogen to your plants. This helps boost them back to life and to shed any lingering dead leaf weight.


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