Leaf Strategy

Feb 28, 2019

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Beech trees, Fagus grandifolia, hang onto their dead leaves throughout winter – a phenomenon called winter leaf marcescence. Why would this benefit a tree? You’d think that snow, ice and strong winds would make these trees more prone to winter injury. There are a few theories about the benefits of this condition. Beech trees thrive when growing in moisture-retentive but not saturated soils, ecologists the leaves that fall off in the spring act as fresh mulch that would persist into summer, holding soil moisture.  Also, all those unpalatable leaves may be one reason deer seldom browse on these beautiful trees. If you happen to be on 1-26 driving towards the upstate, look for clusters of these trees with their eye-catching winter display growing under a higher canopy – not surprising as beech trees are among our most shade tolerant.