Dried leaves still on branches, is this normal?

newgen(9 Central California)February 17, 2010

I have a Crimson Queen I got from Lowe's in June 2009. It's still in the original black plastic pot. There are still quite a few dried up leaves on the branches. I thought JM drop all leaves during the winter. Should I be concerned? Meanwhile, the "atropupureum" I bought last month, bare branches in a fiber pot, is now putting out new leaves.


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Are the old leaves still attached to the branches or just stuck among them? Weeping laceleafs like Crimson Queen often have a dense, layered branch structure and it's very easy for the old dead leaves to collect in them. But it may not be anything serious to have a few old leaves still attached to the branches -- it happens from time to time, especially if the tree is somewhat protected and out of the wind. If it seems to be a lot or most of last season's foliage remaining and attached, it could indicate a number of issues, generally not good.

Regardless, the tree should have healthy wood of a dark color - light, gray wood on the stems typically is dead. And healthy buds should be evident now. If most of the tree is showing these signs - good colored wood and fat buds - your tree should be fine.

FWIW, depending on how big your tree is and how long it was in the nursery container before you purchased it, it may be quite rootbound now. And that can lead to all sorts of complications including situations where the plant may be struggling, or even dead, yet retain all its old foliage. It's always best to plant as soon as possible, or if intended for a container, plant up to an appropriately sized one ASAP.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 7:23PM
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newgen(9 Central California)

Thanks gardengal48: I will post up a photo tomorrow morning, that will better describe the problem. The leaves are not stuck between branches, they're actually still attached to the branches. I have a feeling this is not a good situation I'm facing. I intended to keep this Crimson Queen in a pot. The Atropurpureum is in a fiber pot about 3 gallon in size. I'm gonna repot it in a 15 gallon clay pot. The barely-appearing leaves a so cool looking, all red.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 11:51PM
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I have several Crimson Queens holding onto their leaves, it's normal. I read somewhere that those are called immature leaves. Oaks do it a lot too.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 12:42PM
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I'm not sure I would go so far as to call it "normal" -- it is far more typical/normal for the tree (and that's any cultivar of Acer palmatum) to drop their foliage in fall rather than holding on to it. I could show you any number of Crimson Queens that abscise or lose all their foliage every fall so exactly how normal can it be? As stated, many of the smaller weeping dissectums do have fallen foliage that gets caught up in the dense branching structure, but that is very different from the foliage being held intact to stems throughout winter. Marcescent foliage is not common to any Acer.

And with Japanese maples in particular, various pathogenic and unfavorable cultural conditions can also cause the tree to retain dead foliage through the winter. And these issues are not what one would consider "normal". Nor are they necessarily benign.

Certain oaks, beeches and hophornbeams regularly exhibit marcescent foliage but it is not well understood why some species routinely exhibit this phenomenon and others not. It is generally thought that this occurs due to failure to produce an enzyme that forms at the abscission zone or where the leaf attaches to the tree. In trees that exhibit this unusual characteristic, marcescent foliage is not restricted to only juvenile or immature foliage.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 9:42PM
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newgen(9 Central California)

Sorry I couldn't post up the photo earlier, tried all day to log in, something wrong with Garden Web server. Here's the photo of my Crimson Queen, showing a bunch of leaves stil on the branches. I'd appreciate any "diagnosis".


    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 1:56AM
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Your tree is just fine. This can happen when a freeze occurs or conditions cause the plant to go dormant before the enzymes that cause leaf drop have completed their work. Its common in my climate, where large swings in temperature frequently occur, or when the plant pushes a lot of growth late in the season.

Acer pseudosieboldianum is a maple species that tends to hold onto its leaves in winter. This has led some to consider it "unworthy" as a garden plant (which I think is utter nonsense - its a beautiful tree!)

I rather like my beeches holding onto their leaves during winter. They tend to keep their shape when dry, and turn a lovely tan color, which also looks nice against the silver-grey bark. I think it breaks up the monotony of the bare hardwood forest. Certain oaks, like Post Oak, hold onto their leaves tenaciously at times, but the leaves curl up and lose their shape and generally look ugly. Beeches are much more pleasing.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:27PM
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Many of my Japanese maples retain their dried, brown leaves until the new buds begin to the swell in the late winter/spring. They are all extremely healthy trees, so I wouldn't be overly concerned.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 1:23AM
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Looks OK to me, too! Most of the foliage was dropped as normal......a few leaves remaining intact here and there is not a big deal and is not an indication of serious problems.

From your post, I had envisioned something a bit more severe :-)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 10:26AM
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newgen(9 Central California)

Glad to hear that you guys think it's OK. I'll go ahead and transplant it to a more deserving pot.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 4:05PM
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