Even Trees Are Stressed Out. Here’s How You Can Help!

September means fall is on its way for a large part of the country. The jackets come out of storage, pumpkin spice lattes go back on the Starbucks menu and, of course, the leaves change color. Except one of these things shouldn’t happen yet. Tree leaves shouldn’t change color and fall off their stems until well into the fall season. The middle of September is actually too early for the process of senescence (where trees prep for winter) to start.

Why Leaves Are Changing Color Earlier

The early onset of change in coloration is actually caused by stress. That’s right: trees get stressed out, too. It happens to humans and it can happen to trees too, the way stress can turn hair gray or fall out. Though trees have a much slower reaction process than humans, it can take just a year or two to produce the early change in color. The usual color change in trees results from the loss of chlorophyll, and when this happens it’s usually a sign that the tree is preparing for winter. But when it happens too early, the tree cannot produce enough chlorophyll for its leaves. That means the tree is reacting to a threat.

The Roots Of Trees’ Stress

The causes of tree stressors include a mite infestation, or being planted in places that reflects heat excessively, like a sidewalk, wall, or a driveway. Other causes: external damage to the base of the tree or diseases.

What You Can Do To Ease Trees’ Stress

The first step: pay attention. Keep an eye out for indications of stress. There are more steps you can take to protect trees in your own backyard and in your community:

– Do mow the lawn? Be careful not to mow over trees’ roots or its epicenter.

–  If you’re doing house renovations that involve digging up ground, take extra special care around where the tree is rooted. This includes chemicals like paint, thinner, or siding cleanser.

– Check the tree’s roots and branches for a mountain of bugs. If the tree is infested, look into natural pesticides to rid it of those pesky insects.

– Transplanting a tree? Plant it as far away from surfaces that reflect heat like driveways, large windows, garage doors, etc.

– Mulching helps new trees thrive. So if you’ve got a young tree, hit up your home and garden store for a bag of mulch.

– Do your homework before you prune a tree. Check out the 411 on pruning before you touch any of the trees’ leaves, stems, bark or roots.

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Photos: Pexels, Giphy
Sources: Gardening Know How, MSU Extension, MLive