Why do trees lose their leaves?

Whatever the weather, whether it’s good or bad, you’ll need that rake to clear tem up.

18th November 2014
What makes deciduous plants start to lose their leaves in autumn? (iStock)

Asked by: Barry Cull, by email

Deciduous trees shed their leaves as an active process that evolved to conserve resources and protect the tree from being blown over in the windier winter months. The process is controlled by the plant hormone auxin. As light levels and temperatures drop, the flow of auxin to the leaves slows and levels of another hormone, ethene, rise. This signals the cells at the base of the leaf to weaken their cell walls, at the same time as other cells expand to break the connections between the weakened cells. The result is like tearing perforated paper, and the leaf drops to the ground.


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