oak leaf tatters

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DwainSchroeder
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:04 pm

oak leaf tatters

Post by DwainSchroeder » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:23 pm

I have a small hardwood tree farm consisting primarily of oaks and walnuts (and now dead ash trees via emerald borer). Every spring the oak leaves tend to become curled while flushing out and in the worst trees the leaf edges roll up making the leaf cigar shaped. White oaks are more severely affected than red oaks. Some people call this effect leaf tatters. The second flush of leaves is usually normal. A late frost can cause this to happen, but this damage seems to occur with or without weather issues. I believe that the trees are somewhat stunted and weakened by this event, due in part to the leaves losing surface area for sunlight absorbtion. I've lost a few oaks but I don't know if the leaf problem is necessarily the cause.

I've researched this issue to some degree but have not come up with a conclusive answer. Our area forester (Ohio Dept of Natural Resources) puts it in the category of "many possible cause - but don't know which one", and having been involved with trees for 40+ years I can appreciate the wisdom of that diagnosis.

I live in an intensely farmed area of northwest Ohio so I am suspicious of herbicides. (For what its worth, I have grown up with farming so I have no bias against the chemicals) I know from experience that many herbicides can drift and damage trees, but I don't believe that is the case with my problem, because I've seen the damage deep in woods. I've seen some research that points to herbicide volitization where the chemical is taken up in the atmosphere and dispersed for miles. It is also being detected in subsequent rainfall covering large areas. The corn herbicide acetachlor (and many others) can be detected about anywhere in the atmosphere and in rainfall, and this chemical is believed to cause leaf deformation in oak leaves.

Does anyone in the corn belt area have similar observations? Is anyone aware of any ongoing research on this problem? I know some of the Midwestern universities had done some research several years ago, but I see nothing recently.

Thanks,
Dwain Schroeder

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Matt Markworth
Posts: 1302
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:41 pm

Re: oak leaf tatters

Post by Matt Markworth » Fri Aug 01, 2014 5:47 am

Dwain,

Unfortunately I don't know what the cause might be, but I wanted to welcome you to the Native Tree Society. It's nice to have ever growing representation from the State of Ohio. I look forward to learning more about the trees from your part of the state. I am especially interested in the oak savannas remaining up there.

Matt

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Rand
Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:25 pm

Re: oak leaf tatters

Post by Rand » Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:20 am

I've got an oak tree growing in Northwest Ohio beside a field that does this more often than not. I too have wondered about frost and herbicides. However, as you can see it doesn't seem to have slowed it down appreciatively (large pyramid right next to the field):
w-oak.jpg

Another thing I've notice is the leaves often get severely eaten by something, that chews the leaves down to small remnants along the veins. I don't suppose you know what does that?

DwainSchroeder
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:04 pm

Re: oak leaf tatters

Post by DwainSchroeder » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:30 pm

Matt,
Thanks for the welcome. I've read from the Website on many occasions but never posted before.

Rand,
The oak tree in your picture does look healthy, and I think most trees can take on various maladies without significant ill effects. But it does seem, at least to me, that many of the large oaks in this area are in a declining state. I visited Goll Woods up in Fulton County last year, and was surprised by the number of large oaks that were dead or declining. I realize it's just logical that at any given time, a certain percentage of these trees will be in decline; they can't live forever. Perhaps in Goll Woods there is some sort of natural forest type succession occurring.

I probably should have emphasized in my post that I'm not really looking for a solution to the oak leaf problem because I don't believe there is a practical one. But it's always satisfying to understand the science of why something is occurring.

I also witness the leaf eating that you mentioned. I'm sure there are a endless variety of "bugs" that can do it. This summer I noticed Japanese beetles (shiny green shelled bugs) eating red oak leaves and leaving the leaf veins behind. Various caterpillars will eat hardwood leaves also. Years ago I had some giant silkworm caterpillars eating leaves, not the gypsy moth species, but I believe they were the species Cecropecia??? They form cocoons and hatch in to large beautiful moths, but while in the caterpillar stage you can literally watch them consuming a leaf.

In most cases I don't believe that leaf ailments and leaf eating bugs will harm a tree too much. It's logical that it could slow growth a bit because the trees ability to capture sunlight is reduced somewhat.

In cases where the ailments are severe enough to kill a tree (emerald borer on ash trees), I've accepted that that's the way it is and it's time to move on. To replace the ashes, I'm thinking tulip magnolia may be good. These trees seem to be durable and don't have many natural enemies.

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