Most healthy trees can withstand a couple years of leaf loss from caterpillar damage. Long-term damage depends on the type of tree as well as how much defoliation took place:
- Hardwoods – A healthy leaf-bearing tree should have grown new leaves by now, though leaves may be smaller than usual. If your tree lost all its leaves and does not grow any new ones by summer’s end, watch it in the spring. If it still does not leaf out next spring, it has died.
- Conifers – If your needle-bearing trees lost more than 50 percent of their needles, there’s a good chance they probably won’t recover. Keep an eye on them in the coming seasons, and if you have concerns or think the tree could endanger a house if it were to fall, contact an arborist.
Losing lots of leaves in summer stresses trees and can weaken them, making them vulnerable to pests, diseases, or even competition from invasive plants that swoop in to steal the now-sunny understory space. If trees in your yard show signs of recovery, keep a close eye on them in upcoming months and watch for potential issues. Give them a little extra care when appropriate like:
- watering in dry conditions,
- weeding around the trunk,
- mulching properly – just 1-2 inches deep (if you plan to mulch), and
- scraping off invasive egg masses in fall/winter (if applicable).
If you have concerns, arborists are here to help.
If you’re a woodland owner who saw major forest defoliation, watch for new leaves this summer. If this is not the first year of the outbreak in your area and you have concerns for next year, contact a forester for a consultation.
Trees are pretty resilient, but sometimes they can use a little help from their human friends to get them through tough times. A watchful eye and a little extra care can go a long way in helping your trees get healthy again.
Melissa Hart photo