Many species of trees in the Northern Virginia landscape are dropping their leaves early this year, and it’s easy to get the mistaken impression that they’re dead.
The cherry trees pictured above, for example, dropped their leaves in late summer as the result of a fungal issue that had impacted them earlier in the season. The trees are alive, however, and we expect them to bloom and be fine in the spring.
A number of other factors are contributing to early leaf drop. Some of it dates back to last winter and the stress of prolonged cold. Once spring arrived, the trees got plenty of water for a few months but have been suffering through dry conditions since July. These stressors, along with the constants of poor soil conditions and the competition between turf and trees for water and nutrients, are making the trees lives hard but probably won’t kill them.
If trees on your residential or commercial property have dropped their leaves, don’t just assume they’re dead. Take a pocket knife or hand pruners and make a small cut on small branch. If the tree is dead, the wood will be brittle and brown or gray. But if the branch feels flexible and the inner wood is green, chances are you’re tree is going to make it.