Holding on until Spring

Marcescent Beech Tree
Marcescent Beech Tree

Here in the Northeast, many of us experience a strong feeling of protest, an internal voice that shouts “No!” when the deciduous trees are about to lose their last leaves.But some leafy trees do keep their leaves until spring! There’s even a special word to describe this tenacious holding onto living plant material through the winter — marcescence.

I never appreciated the tan papery leaves on Beech and Oak trees that flutter throughout the winter because I assumed they were a sign that the trees were dead. One year, it dawned on me that the parched leaves appeared year after yearon the same trees. They had to fall off at some point to allow for the new leaves, but when? I watched as they held on through heavy snowfall, frost, ice storms, and gusty winds. It was February, then March, then April… suddenly there were new green leaves; I had missed the transition!

This winter, take note of marcescent trees, whose leaves make a crinkly sound in the wind, glow when backlit by sunlight, and add color to the forest (even tan stands out in winter).

Beech Tree Leaves Holding on in Winter
Beech Leaves Holding On

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