A few trees hang on to their leaves through the winter…


Cold rhododendron

The rhododendra are evergreen, but on a cold morning, they don’t look like they’re very happy. They curl their leaves up tight until they get warmed by the morning sun.

Cold rhododendron


I was all set to declare that only white oaks held on to their (dead) leaves in winter, and that the other oaks dropped theirs. I planned to do a quick google search to get an idea for why this might be. And then I realized that the picture I wanted to use to prove my point was actually of a red oak. So… red and white oaks keep their leaves! (And others too?!)

A red oak with its leaves


This one may be the most interesting. It is the young beech trees (or sometimes the lower branches on more mature trees) that keep their leaves. The very mature trees drop their leaves. Ordinary Spouse pointed this out to me one day, and now I notice the beeches everywhere I go around Laurelville.

Beech leaves

Beech "thicket"

Above: leaves on immature trees. Below: no leaves on this mature tree. (Incidentally, the mature tree has made a previous appearance in this blog.)

A mature beech without leaves

This trait (the retention of dead leaves into winter) is called ‘marcescence‘. It isn’t necessarily clear why trees do this, although the Northern Woodlands site has an article with some interesting ideas. BTW – oaks and beeches are in the same family, Fagaceae.

Finally, today’s sunset has nothing to do with marcescence, but it was beautiful so I thought I should share it.

Sunset over the Laurelville Dining Hall