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As New England prepares to enter its annual leaf-peeping frenzy, a question arises: Why don’t oak trees and beech trees drop their leaves in winter, like all the other deciduous species up here?

This is, I recently learned, called “marcescence” and there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for this not-quite-evergreen, not-quite-deciduous behavior. Among the competing ideas: Maybe they moved north fairly recently and haven’t evolved complete leaf-shedding; maybe their are certain advantages (keeping off browsing deer; collecting snow to increase moisture; protecting buds from cold); maybe it’s a function of the types of soil they prefer

The superb magazine Northern Woodlands has a great article on it back in 2010, and I can’t do better than to point you to it. Read, and learn..

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