Summer\'s Brown Leaves Aren\'t Dead Trees

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COLUMBIA - Tree leaves are turning colors sooner than usual this year; not as a result of an early autumn, but for survival.

The dry weather in May, June and July has played an extreme role on the health of Missouri trees.  Some trees are sending themselves into a dormant phase weeks ahead of their usual time of October.

"They're calling quits for the year," Arborist Josh Reams said. "There's not enough moisture to sustain for the rest of the year and they're better off to lay dormant for the remainder of the year." 

The Missouri Urban Foresting Program Coordinator, Nick Kuhn, says the early dormant phase is nothing to worry about. 

"It happens all the time," Kuhn said. "Trees will drop leaves, or change color early August or September possibly due to a hot August."

If you are concerned, Kuhn says there are some quick things you can do to check your tree's life.  If a branch is brittle, then it may have died. However, even if that branch is dead, it doesn't necessarily mean the whole tree is dead.  Also, look under new bark to see if there is some moisture. Break leaf buds open to see if there is moisture or green.  You may want to check the limb's flexibilty. If it snaps off completely, then it is possible that part has died.

Some quick tips to maintain tree life?  Reams suggests watering the tree slowly with a sprinkler at the base of the trunk, that way the water will reach most of the areas beneath the limbs, or drip line.  Folks could also use mulch which keeps the ground cool.