What’s Happening to Your Trees in the Fall
Fall brings to mind trees bursting with vibrant yellows, reds, and purples, but your trees might still look green. If you’ve noticed your tree’s leaves not changing color immediately in the autumn, you’re not alone. The process by which tree leaves change colors is complex and affected by climate.
Rising autumn temperatures affect when leaves begin turning color and falling. Warmer springs and summers cause trees to shed their leaves later in the fall and not change color as dramatically.
Leaves are staying green longer, and their autumn color is becoming less vibrant. Ordinarily, the cold temperatures in fall cause anthocyanin accumulation, which makes leaves turn red and purple. Warmer fall temperatures mean less anthocyanin buildup—and leaves not changing color.
Is This Happening Everywhere or Just in the Georgia Area?
North America is home to many species of trees that change leaf color in the fall. In cooler areas like the northeastern US and midwest, leaves are still changing color on schedule. But in warmer areas like Georgia and the rest of the south, rising temperatures have delayed color change in leaves.
As climate change continues over the next few decades, leaves will begin to change and fall sooner. Studies show that many Northern Hemisphere forests are changing color ever-so-slightly earlier.
Is It a Health Concern for Your Trees?
Leaves changing color a bit later in the year isn’t inherently a bad thing for trees. Fall foliage won’t be as beautiful, but trees shed their leaves whether they’re a brilliant autumn color or not. The leaves on certain kinds of trees don’t change color in the first place.
If your trees’ leaves stay green for a while longer, it does come with some risks. The branches will catch more snow if the snow begins before a tree has fully shed its leaves. The extra weight on the branches may cause them to snap off.
Another possible explanation for unchanging leaves is a fungal infection. Leaves that have caught a fungal infection from heavy rain won’t turn any vibrant fall colors and will instead turn brown and fall off.
What to Do When the Leaves Are Taking Longer to Change and Fall
Leaves will still fall if they take a little longer to change or the leaf color isn’t vibrant. In the meantime, enjoy your extra time off from strenuous leaf cleanup. You can use this extra time to prep your lawn for winter.
It’s an excellent chance to get extra water into your trees before the ground freezes. Extra mulch around your trees would also help them survive the winter. Fewer leaves to clean up gives you more time for other yard work.
Leaves not changing color immediately means you’ll have to rake them up quickly when they fall. If the leaves get buried in snow or rained on, your lawn can suffer. Winter is hard on lawns, and leaves trapped beneath the snow create more work come spring.