photos taken near Woodstock, Vermont at 1600 feet elevation

In recent years, the overall color of the tree leaves as they open in the spring has become increasingly brown. This is particularly noticeable on the sugar maples, but other species are also affected.

Years ago, brown spring leaves on an individual tree were an unhealthy sign. Now the nearby forests are filled with brown spring leaves.


Looking through a forest of brown sugar maple leaves.
photo by Gerry Hawkes ~ May 8, 2002

Looking through the brown spring forest. A couple decades ago a similar view through the forest would be filled with light shades of fresh green. To see how this leafing out unfolds, click here for a series of photos taken every few days starting with this photo taken on May 8, 2002.



Healthy, green sugar maple leaves and abnormally reddish brown spring leaves
photo by Gerry Hawkes - May 8, 2002

Leaves on the left are nearly the fresh spring green of a healthy sugar maple.

On the right is an example of spring sugar maple leaves that are showing strong reddish brown coloration. This is likely due to a lack of chlorophyll. A decrease in vigor may be making the leaves more susceptible to damage from cold weather during leaf out.



Average spring discoloration of sugar maple leaves.
photo by Gerry Hawkes - May 9, 2002

This photo represents approximately the average spring sugar maple leaf discoloration of the trees shown in the first photo. While it is expected that these leaves will become greener as they mature, the early spring reddish brown is cause for concern.

Note that the leaves in this photo are abnormally bunched due to compression of the space between nodes. This bunching or tufting of leaves has become increasingly common as has dieback of apical buds.


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