Early Fall Color Could be Sign of Tree Distress

Ah, summer! We’re certainly in the heat of it now!

It may be too soon to start thinking fall foliage, early changes in leaf-color in late summer can be a sign that your tree is under stress and vulnerable to insect and disease attack. If the leaves on your trees are changing color sooner than similar trees in the area, consult a professional arborist. They can help identify any problems and offer possible solutions.

“Premature color change can be an indication that a tree isn’t vigorous enough to withstand insects and disease organisms that may attack it, not to mention the usual changes that occur when the weather turns cold,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. “Occasionally, only one or two limbs of the tree will show premature fall color. This could be a sign of a disease at work, though only the infected limbs are weakened.”

Next, a common situation is for the entire tree to exhibit premature fall coloration, a phenomenon usually linked to root-related stress. “Trees respond to these stresses by trying to restrict their above-ground growth, which affects leaf color and heath,” adds Andersen.  Root related stress can be caused by many things: extended drought or flooding, construction activities, fertilizer imbalances, and even improper planting.

What to Do

Correcting the symptoms of early leaf color changes – or even early leaf fall – might take a systematic approach to regain tree health. The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis of what stressors are affecting the tree. This is where your qualified tree care provider can offer some advice. Perhaps reversing the effects of tree stress is just as simple as changing the watering regime, fertilization application or even pruning out affected branches. If there is a treatment available, it could take a few growing seasons for the tree to come back into full health.

*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional

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