Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nine native trees that hold leaves in winter

Native broadleaf trees with persistent foliage

Have you noticed that a few broadleaf trees change color in fall, but don't drop their leaves? Many of their brown leaves cling to the tree throughout winter and early spring until new leaf growth begins. This characteristic is called marescence.

Here are nine native trees that behave in this fashion.

Perhaps it's no surprise to you that the majority are oaks. Owners of these oak trees often complain that they shed leaves all winter long. I know an elderly lady who is very opposed to oaks as the national tree. She has lived her entire adult life under big white oaks, and she hates the way they drop their leaves a little at a time, all winter. "Just not tidy trees," she told me.

Trees with some winter foliage will perform better as a windbreak, screen, or sound barrier than trees that have dropped all their leaves.

They will also cast more shade in the winter than trees that have dropped their leaves. Sunshine on the house in winter is generally a good thing, so consider that when choosing a planting site for a tree that keeps winter leaves.

Our pin oak on the evening of February 21.
Look at all those leaves!

Image credit: Pin oak leaf drawing by J. R. Stacy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

7 comments -- please add yours:

Charles Swigart said...

I was looking up the word that defines the characteristic of hold leaves over the winter and found your note.

I noticed that you did not include the scarlet oak, quercus coccinea. We have a young scarlet oak in our yard and it holds its leaves much more than the pin oaks do. Scarlet oak is often confused with pin oak, but its branches are more upright and the acorns are small with a large cap.

Charles Swigart
Huntingdon, PA

Anonymous said...

You can add our local Box Elder tree to the group that also hold their leaves all winter.
northwestern Nebraska

Anonymous said...

I posted a photo on my FB page with the text, "These trees are so striking to look at when walking through the otherwise barren winter landscape. The papery thin almost-white leaves rustle in the wind and are somewhat translucent in addition to reflecting the sun's light. One would think such seemingly delicate leaves would have torn in our high winds and would have dropped many months ago, but all these delicate looking show-off-trees scattered around the forest and along the lake still have all their leaves after months of fall, winter and spring storms. I walked up to a sapling the other day and gently tugged on one of its leaves... it is on there tight! Not ready to drop even if you want to pry it! I'll be interested to watch how it goes about putting forth its new ones. I have no idea what kind of tree it is... I'll find out. " Thanks to your Blog I confirmed that it is a Beach tree! Thank you.

Nancy Figueroa said...

I just came from reading the Book of Enoch and it was recorded that the Lord made 14 trees that do not shed their leaves... I was glad to see people adding more to the list.

Genevieve Netz said...

I doubt if the writer of the Book of Enoch included trees of the North American continent in his count.

Genevieve Netz said...

In addition, trees that do not shed their leaves in the fall (subject of this post) are not the same as evergreen trees, which presumably was what the Book of Enoch refers to.

Craig Evans said...

We have a columnar maple that retains it's leaves throughout winter. It is so dense with leaves that you cannot see through even the smallest branches.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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