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Kentucky Color - Upside Down Sugar Maple Leaves

Earlier Tree care may have resulted in epicormic branching - he explains in the complete essay, accessed by clicking on the headline - causing upside down leaves

By Billy Joe Fudge, Retired District Forester

Yes, the tree spotlighted is a Maple, a Sugar maple to be correct. Sugar maple is a genetically variable tree which means it can exhibit many different qualities and behave differently from tree to tree on the very same site which leaves us (pun intended) guessing in many respects about the upside down leaves on this particular tree. The following is a list of variables for us to consider.


We here in the foothills of Kentucky are on the Southern edge of it's native range and it grows and reacts differently to environmental stimuli here than it will in the North Woods.

This particular tree has been topped which encouraged epicormic branching which causes the tree to become a crown with solid leaf cover. This allows for no passage of air and wind through the crown and creates wind currents and eddies of swirling air currents on the surface of the crown and can mess with the natural leaf movements.

Epicormic branching also makes for weak limb attachments which do not transfer water and nutrients to and from the main trunk and leaves as efficiently as normal limb attachments. This can cause leaf petioles to become turgid during extremely wet conditions and to become limp during dry, hot conditions. This can also lead to unnatural leaf movements and positioning.

Sugar maple is also very sensitive to flooding or wet conditions which may be a contributing factor to this type anomaly.

It's geographical positioning might be a contributing factor in that it is standing on an elevated position with a vertical rock wall which could be creating an updraft from the prevailing winds being funneled by the homes and embankments on the top of Jamestown Hill. If I had to hazard a guess as to the most likely cause of the bottoms-up leaves, I would lean more toward the unnatural growth brought on by topping.

Billy Joe Fudge is the regular and only Kentucky Color Columnist. He is a retired District Forester with a passion for timber management the urban forest and Christian stewardship of Kentucky's woodlands. He is a founder of Homeplace on Green River and a respected, widely read naturalist. --


This story was posted on 2016-07-08 06:20:47
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