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Question: Why is my tree losing leaves now?!

June 9, 2021
Hackberry Tree

Question: My hackberry trees are dropping leaves for no apparent reason. The leaves look fine, no bugs or mold spots or discoloration of any kind. Do you have any idea what might be causing the leaf drop?

Answer: The loss of leaves on hackberries in spring is an occasional phenomenon in the Midwest. The exact cause has never been determined. In past years, no association was found between the leaf drop and insects or diseases. The most popular theory is that cold spring temperatures may have damaged the leaf buds or newly developing leaves, causing the leaf drop. Remember that blast of winter in April!? It’s likely the loss of leaves in spring is temporary. In past years, affected hackberries quickly developed new leaves and recovered completely. Just be patient and wait for the reflush of growth.

Leaves may be falling from your maple trees right now. This is a common spring issue caused by the maple petiole borer Look closely at the fallen leaves for abnormally short petioles and examine the tree canopy for broken petioles that have remained attached. Although sugar maples are generally preferred, other maples may occasionally be infested. Fortunately, while the leaf drop may appear dramatic, the actual impact on the overall health of affected trees is minimal, so controls are not necessary. Also, a re-flush of leaves may be expected.

Resources:
Will My Tree Recover After Losing Their Leaves, Purdue Landscape Report
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree, Purdue Extension YouTube Channel
Planting Your Tree Part 2: Planting A Tree, Purdue Extension YouTube Channel
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Extension Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Ask an Expert: Tree Selection and Planting, Purdue FNR Extension YouTube Channel
Find a Certified Arborist, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)-Trees Are Good

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

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