Experts explain rapid-falling leaves

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s that time of year where trees lose their leaves, but some of you may have noticed one particular kind of tree losing all of its leaves within hours.

It’s a little early, but this is a normal process for ginkgo trees. One arborist with the Champaign Park District says this could affect how long we can enjoy them next fall, but UI Landscape Architect Brent Lewis says that’s not the case.

Lewis says most trees go through a process called senescence and abscission. That’s basically how the tree takes nutrients from them and then those leaves fall off. That process takes a couple weeks, and that’s why they lose leaves slowly.

Ginkgo trees adapted a little differently. They form a layer between the leaves and trees and wait for the first frost. Once that comes, they just fall right off at the same time. Ginkgos are the only trees that do that.

“There’s questions every year: ‘Is my tree okay? Is it sick? Did something happen? Why are all the trees dying?’ Nope, they just do that, and just enjoy it. It’s fun; it’s unique,” said Lewis.

Lewis say ginkgo trees have been around for around 200-million years. That means dinosaurs ate them when they were alive. It also means they’re very resilient. Experts have different opinions about what ginkgo’s will look like next fall. We may just have to wait and see when the first frost comes in 2020.

Trees can drop their leaves around three times a year for five years straight before it seriously hurts them. That can be caused by things like insect issues or drought. Only after that point does a tree run the risk of dying.

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