As Spring is arriving, we are receiving quite a few questions about live oaks dropping their leaves. Our customers are worried their trees are dying. Fortunately, that is not the case. While live oaks are considered an evergreen tree, they do naturally shed their leaves March through early May in preparation for the onset of new growth. Sometimes the leaf drop is so severe that a tree appears almost leafless. Leaf drop in the spring is usually due to natural causes and is not generally a cause for concern. Usually, new leaves will appear shortly after leaves are shed. New leaves may also be appearing while old leaves are dropping.
Trees often vary in the amount or degree of defoliation they exhibit. Some live oaks drop almost all their leaves before new growth appears while others growing nearby may hold their leaves longer making the transition into the new growth more smoothly. It is important to remember each tree can be looked upon as an individual, with specific characteristics. Those trees may be different genetically, making one shed and producing new leaves quicker than another. It is also possible that there are environmental and/or physical factors that influence a particular plant to shed quicker.
This leaf drop phenomenon is NOT caused by a disease. It is part of the natural life cycle of the tree. However, if you are still concerned, Fannin Tree Farm suggests the following few things to verify the health of the tree.
How to Check the Health of Your Live Oak:
1. Bend and scratch the small branches or twigs.
a. If they are green and pliable, the tree is alive.
b. If it is brittle or brown and snaps easily, chances are that the branch is dead. Remember trees have dead branches and that is normal but if it does this on many branches, then you need to submit a work order on our website for us to evaluate the tree.
c. You can also scratch the trunk to see if it shows green. If it’s green the tree is alive.
2. Look for leaf buds or newly developing leaves. New swelling leaf buds should be clearly visible when trees are dropping leaves. Occasionally, you may see tiny new leaflets starting to form as leaves drop off.
Thank you to Texas A&M AgriLife for all their helpful information! https://plantclinic.tamu.edu