Winter defoliation

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Harcuvar, Nov 27, 2020.

  1. Harcuvar

    Harcuvar Member

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    Is there a proper technique to remove dried leaves from maples that don’t want to drop? I know certain trees you have to pull in a certain direction.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Harcuvar good morning G, this is a question that is cropping up more and more these days, probably due to Autumn becoming warmer and warmer. I would not be concerned about defoliating maples unless you get into mid December and they still have not dropped. I have found over the years that maples that hold onto their brown curled up leaves into Winter have an underlying problem which materialises in darkened branches and die back. I have also found that a very dry Autumn can cause stress to the maple and then the leaves do not drop.
    All too often people forget to water their trees at this time of the year. I myself will water until the first frosts in November if there has been little Autumnal rainfall.
    So to answer your question, don't concern yourself with defoliating now, but in a couple of weeks if they haven't dropped then some help by cutting them off half way down the petioles will be fine. These will then drop off naturally during January-March. I don't like to get too close to the nodes when carrying this out, as those lovely new buds might get damaged. I don't like to 'pull' the leaves off at all.
    Hope thats of some help G.
     
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  3. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Leaves that don't fall off are called marcescent. The process that causes maple leaves to fall off (for most maples) is called abscission. Abscission in maples is the process whereby the base of the petiole dries and thickens. The attachment between the petiole and the stem, already curved, curls more as it grows, thickens and dries, which pushes the leaf off the stem and reveals the new bud underneath. It's pretty cool actually, each petiole squeezes itself off of the bud that will replace it.

    There are a few things that can interrupt abscission and lead to marcescent leaves. Certainly there can be an underlying problem with the maple as mentioned above, but much more common is another interruption like an early freeze, or even a wind storm that causes early leaf dessication. This happened on the East Coast of the US 2 years ago, an early freeze and there were marcescent maples all over the place.

    So the dead leaves aren't necessarily a sign of a problem even throughout the winter. For maples, if you want to remove them, the best method is to cut them off with a scissors, cutting the petiol near the stem. Trying to pull them off may damage the new buds. In this way, as the buds swell in spring, the little bits of petiole that remain will fall off naturally.

    This said, you won't harm the maple by leaving the dead leaves on over the winter.

    HTH, -E
     
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  4. Harcuvar

    Harcuvar Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I believe the tree is very healthy. It’s been thriving every year. Just this one cultivar likes to hold leaves. It’s a Shaina. The main reason for leaf removal would be to help me with my structural pruning. Better view I guess.
     
  5. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Glad to hear it's healthy! I guess Shaina must be one of the naturally marcescent cultivars. There are a few marcescent species maples too, notably A. carpinifolium, which fools everyone in winter.
     
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