Trees and Shrubs forum→Are smaller, fewer leaves a tree reaction to stress?

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Name: John
Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a)
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jathton
May 11, 2020 7:11 PM CST
Even though central Oklahoma had a few below zero nights, some very wet days in March and a lot of traumatizing temperature fluctuations last winter... we essentially had a fairly benign winter. You certainly can't criticize our winter while looking at all the lush growth we're having now. Nonetheless, a gardener/friend, across our parking area, and I are convinced the three trees we deal with in our shade gardens have put out fewer and smaller leaves this spring... making the shade cover over our shades beds about 75% of what we are used to having. Does this sound logical to you?
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
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ViburnumValley
May 12, 2020 10:20 AM CST
You should take some pictures of the three trees in question, and post them here for evaluation.

Not knowing anything about the site - not even the species of the trees you are talking about - I don't think anyone here could offer a reasonable suggestion to you.
John
Name: John
Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a)
Photo Contest Winner 2019 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
jathton
May 12, 2020 5:41 PM CST
Well, John, I didn't give any of you anything at all to go on did I? My apologies.

The three trees are a Silver Maple, a Crabapple, and an American Ash.
They are growing on the grounds of a large apartment complex made up of duplexes and fourplexes.
The soil profile for all three growing sites is composed of about 6 inches of "topsoil"... and by that I meanly fairly friable soil with a high clay colloid content. The subsoil is what is known in Oklahoma as "red earth"... composed of a high clay content. It is truly good material for brick-making.
None of the trees are under any form of irrigation. None of the trees have a disease or any insect infestation.

They have simply leafed out this spring with substantially fewer leaves and smaller leaves. The silver maple produced an abnormally high number of seed pods [samaras] this year. The crabapple bloomed as usual.

I do not believe the trees are in danger [that may be naive hope, but I don't think so] I'm just wondering if this is somehow similar to
say, for instance,
lemmings producing fewer and smaller litters in lean years.

What do you think.
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
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ViburnumValley
May 12, 2020 7:30 PM CST
I think: none of those species would have been affected by winter issues of warmth or cold or wetness or not. They are all perfectly winter hardy in your climate and much farther north.

The behavior upon leaf emergence in spring for mostly hardy woody plants will be based on how they "went to bed", meaning, what were growing conditions like last summer and fall before they went dormant.

In my part of the world, there were 90 days without appreciable/measurable rain last fall - from the end of July through the end of October. That stressed the heck out of everything, and especially woody plants that did not receive supplemental watering from their supposed stewards. Some simply died instead of going dormant. Others instituted early self-dormancy. Still others limped along, wishing for death but surviving to reach normal dormancy in November/December. I only hyperbolize a little.

If Oklahoma suffered a similar climatic fate in late summer and fall 2019, I would suspect that as the origin of what you are observing now. You mentioned that these trees don't receive irrigation. In the soil profile you describe (typical of late 20th/early 21st century site construction practices), the primary rooting zone of these trees probably went totally dry. That's not good.

Stressed and weakened plants do not (cannot) store the resources for the following season that they normally would - whether (weather?) stressed by climatic conditions, or by insect/disease affliction, or by physical trauma like lightning strike, flooding, vehicular damage, mower damage, construction trenches, ice/snow loads, etc.

I still wish you'd humor us with some images. We may see something you don't.
John
Name: John
Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a)
Photo Contest Winner 2019 Avid Green Pages Reviewer
jathton
May 12, 2020 9:23 PM CST
Hello again, John.
Thanks... that is some good information you supplied.

I called the National Weather Service [they have a huge facility 25 miles south of here] and they told me our normal rainfall for three months in the fall is slightly over 9 inches. In the fall of 2018 we received about 14 inches... but last fall we received about 6.5 inches.

It is 10:21PM here... so I will take pictures tomorrow. Any particular details you want to see?

Thanks for the help.
John
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
You can't have too many viburnums..
Region: United States of America Region: Kentucky Farmer Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Butterflies Enjoys or suffers hot summers Enjoys or suffers cold winters Dog Lover Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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ViburnumValley
May 12, 2020 10:02 PM CST
I think some general shots of the overall growing area is useful. What you can't show in every excruciating detail, you can fill in descriptions word-wise.

For the suspect under-performing trees, a picture that shows the WHOLE tree is always good. Then, show as you can the less than stellar performance features as you've mentioned in the Silver Maple, Ash, and Crabapple.

If there are other woody plants around that you haven't mentioned, and that you'd like an evaluation/estimation of their performance, well heck, show them too. The great thing about this site is you can post as many pictures as you want - and this is the forum in which to do just that.

Another climatic element that comes into play - along with rainfall - that merits scrutiny: the relative temperature trends during the same period. If you only had two-thirds normal rainfall, that can be a stressing factor. If it was hotter than average over that same period of time, well, I don't have to elaborate.
John

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