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Q & A – Why are the leaves on my aspen trees brown?

Q & A – Why are the leaves on my aspen trees brown?

Posted on: October 4th, 2018

While the official State Tree of Colorado is the Blue Spruce, many mistakenly credit the aspen tree with this honor.

While aspens are the most distributed native tree species across North America, when it comes to aspen trees many automatically think of Colorado. Why? Because there’s a thicker concentration of the trees than anywhere else in the United States.

What many don’t understand is while aspens will grow down in the valleys of Colorado, they don’t always grow very well. They are much more at home in elevations of 10,000 feet, where it tends to be 20-30 degrees cooler and moisture is a more common occurrence.

What you’re probably seeing on your aspen trees, if in fact you’re in the valleys of Colorado, is leaf scorch.

What’s leaf scorch?

According to the Colorado University Extension, “Leaf scorch is caused by a tree or shrub’s inability to take up sufficient water to meet its needs under harsh summer weather conditions.”

Spring, summer, fall (and sometimes even winter) are often on the dry side here in Colorado and leaf scorch is common among trees not accustomed to drier growing conditions. Aspens being one of them.

Once leaf scorch has occurred on your aspen trees, there is no cure—not even the urge to provide additional moisture will do the trick.

“In some years, if conditions are especially hot and windy, some scorch is likely,” they note. “Don’t panic and kill off your trees with an excess of kindness by over watering.”

But with proper winter watering (a good, deep soaking once a month when there is no snow cover) you’re giving a head start to the health of your tree come the spring.

As the growing season starts again, remember that trees (especially aspens) need a deep, but infrequent, watering to prevent leaf scorch. This deep, infrequent watering will provide moisture to the roots for sustainability during dryer conditions. Don’t assume that your lawn irrigation system is enough to also water your trees.

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