Marcescent Oak Leaves

During walks in the park during the very cold first week of January 2018, I found my attention drawn to trees that still retain their leaves despite the fact that we are deep into winter.

It happens every year, the realization that there are a number of trees in Eliza Howell Park that retain their leaves long after they turn brown and long after the leaves of other deciduous trees have fallen. One obviously does not need to know the scientific term for the phenomenon of withering but not falling off (marcescence) to observe the reality every winter.

Most of the trees in the park that retain their leaves are oak trees. This winter there are a few maples near the entrance to the park that have some withered leaves in early January, but it is an every year occurrence to find leaves hanging on oak trees far into winter.


Leaf retention typically occurs in smaller younger trees. Large, mature oaks of the same species drop their leaves earlier.

As reflected in the next two pictures, January leaves can be found on trees of more than one oak species.



A good place to find several leaf-retaining oak trees is inside the road loop, about half round from the Fenkell entrance.













Marcescent leaves may gradually be dropped (blown off) during the winter or may hang on till spring. It might  be interesting for me to choose a tree or two this year to monitor and note when the leaves are finally down.






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