Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Make like a tree

This patch of woods on the edge of one of the nearby vineyard parcels is very close to Callie's favorite path. We had just emerged from the woods and I noticed how the rising sun was making the dead leaves (still clinging to their trees) shine bright orange.

The rising sun shines horizontally through the woods.

Around here, oak and a few other tree species don't drop their leaves in the fall. The leaves die and turn brown, but most of them stay attached to the tree until the new spring growth pushes them off. I don't know if this is normal for oak trees or just the species that grows here. I certainly don't remember that about the oak trees where I grew up (upstate New York). Live oaks in the American south and west don't shed their leaves at all.

So, I just had to look this up. I found that this phenomenon has a name: marcescence. It occurs most widely in oaks, beeches, chestnuts, and hornbeams. The woods around us contain all four species in abundance. In French, they're called chêne, hêtre, châtaignier, and charme, respectively. Marcescence is the same word in both languages. You learn something new every day!


  1. I love this. I never knew there was a term for this. I had a wood of large old oaks on our property in Connecticut. We'd rake and rake and finally get the gardens all cleaned up and then those oaks that had stubbornly held onto their leaves would suddenly shed -- not all their leaves, but enough to have us taking all over again. Oh how I cursed those oaks.

  2. Beautiful. The pin oak in my front yard here in northeast Ohio does this.

  3. We have several oaks in our back woods that do this. I like seeing their nice brown color all winter. I need to check on them to see when it is that they finally drop their leaves. Perhaps they wait for a heavy rain.

  4. mitch, well, that explains it!

    judy, n'est-ce pas ?

    thickethouse, I did read about pin oaks, but I'm not sure what they are.

    evelyn, rain, wind, or new growth. Maybe all three!


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