Have you noticed a little change in your trees? It’s not uncommon for property owners to look at one or more of their trees and wonder what season it is, as the colours change from green to red, yellow, or orange in the middle of summer.
It’s not the changing of the temperatures or a tree acting out of season because it’s unusual – changing colours is a sign that your tree is under a lot of stress. Take red leaves as red alerts that you need to give your tree some first aid!
Why Do Leaves Change Colour At All?
The radiant reds and oranges we are treated to every autumn come about due to the trees altering their chemical processes as they ready themselves for winter. During the spring and summer, the leaves create food for the tree via photosynthesis, where the sun stimulates chlorophyll in the cells and keeps them a healthy green. Chlorophyll turns carbon dioxide and water into the simple carbs the tree needs to survive and thrive.
As the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler with the change from summer to fall, the chlorophyll breaks down as the tree stops requiring the food from photosynthesis. The leaves are then severed from the tree and they fall off from their own weight. The tree is beginning the process of going dormant, and doesn’t need to expend energy supporting its leaves – its water and carb stores should get it through the cold weather until spring.
But why would a tree’s leaves turn colours before the changes in temperature and sunlight? It’s a good sign of a tree trying to deal with a threat to its health and will need your help going through.
Insects Causing Colour Changing in Summer
If you notice your trees are changing colour in the summer, take this as a sign that your tree needs help. Many arborists believe that early colour changing is due to a tree is trying to change its processes to get rid of a pest that threatens its health. Insects that infest trees like to feed off the sugary carbs created by chlorophyll; when a tree shuts down this meal, the insects take it as a sign that they should move on. As we’ve just seen, the breakdown of chlorophyll leads to the changing of the leaves and eventually their falling off, so if you’re seeing it in the summer, the most likely answer is you’re seeing a tree in defensive mode.
Stressed Out Trees
It might not always be bugs, however – a tree that isn’t getting enough nutrients could go into dormancy early. Branch dieback and damage to the trunk or roots from lawn maintenance can also be the culprit. Any tree that is trying to deal with a health problem is cutting resources and using them to save itself!
A stressed-out tree is usually trying to get rid of a problem and could use your help. Check for signs of insect infestation, including running sap, open wounds, and little entry holes. Consider giving it some water if the conditions haven’t been optimal during the summer, or have an arborist prune diseased and damaged limbs that could be adding stress.
You can’t be too careful, as a stressed-out tree could easily become a dying or dead tree if not properly treated. Never treat colour changes in summer as a novelty – help your tree right away!