Defoliating Trident Maple

NewtotheArt

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A question I have that I can never find a straight answer to is should I begin defoliating my Trident Maple forest before the Winter hits or should I let the leaves fall off naturally with time? I’ve been told both answers but not quite sure what to do. The leaves are just now beginning to die off so I feel this is a good time to ask. I’m new to Bonsai so any help is welcome. Thank you in advance.
It currently resides in central California Zone 9a.
 

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MrWunderful

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If they dont fall off by january, you can prune whats left off.

I live in the same area, and my leaves *usually* fall off if we get below 35 in a night or two but sometimes they dont. I just help nature along around january on deciduous trees.
 
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As long as the leaves are green they are still capable of photosynthesizing and therefore strengthening the roots.

When I've asked why are we removing these leaves in late season the answer is usually, "to keep them from falling off and littering up the garden" not any horticultural reason.
 

NewtotheArt

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Based on the pics above, some of the leaves are starting to brown around the edges why some leaves are vibrantly green. In your opinion, does the tree look like it should at this time of year? This is my first Maple and just want some input. Thank you.
 

MrWunderful

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Yes. Looks like it dried out a bit at some point, but healthy. Let its do its thing, you might get a full leaf drop and not have to worry about it!
 

leatherback

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Leaves are full of nutrients and valuable trace elements. The changing of colour is the result of the plant extracting those elements by taking apart the leave, transporting those nutrients and trace elements into the more permanent part of the plant. Once all that it can take out has been relocated into the plant, it creates a corky layer between the branch and the leave, and the leave is detached.

If you remove the leaves yourself you are doing 2 things: You reove some of the nutrients and trace elements the plant could have relocated, and you are creating a tiny wound to the outside world.

Is it a big deal? Probably not. But from a pure biological point of view, it makes no sense to remove them.
 

clem

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Once the leaves begin to change color, it’s safe to remove the leaves.

- Scott
ok, but i think it is better to let the tree remove by itself those red color leaves, when all the nutriments/micro-elements inside those leaves have been re-injected into the branches & trunk. The tree "knows" when to remove those leaves by itself.
same logic as the previous post.

Ryan Neil says that the changing color is a good window to trim branches because the tree has still some activity and is more able to "partition" & heal before the winter dormancy. But if you don't need to trim the tree, i think it is better to let the leaves fall by themselves, naturally
 

Bonsai Nut

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Not sure about the East Bay, but in milder California climates you may find your trident leaves don't change color at all. They may just crisp and drop. This is why some people recommend defoliation - because the leaves never fully fall off the tree even through the winter. In Orange County, my trident leaves would eventually mostly drop... but some stragglers would still be on the tree in January - while the tree would bud with new growth in March. At that point I just cut them off, but I did so for aesthetic reasons. I do not know that it negatively impacted the health of the tree to leave them on.

It should be noted that if you prune hard or defoliate late in the year (like in September in SoCal) your tree may push new growth that shows absolutely no sign of fading as you go into the fall. The older leaves will crisp and drop, but the new leaves will remain on the tree as if it were a tropical. Same thing - I would remove those in January. By "remove" just cut off the leaf, but leave the base of the petiole; it will drop off by itself.
 

NewtotheArt

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Leaves are full of nutrients and valuable trace elements. The changing of colour is the result of the plant extracting those elements by taking apart the leave, transporting those nutrients and trace elements into the more permanent part of the plant. Once all that it can take out has been relocated into the plant, it creates a corky layer between the branch and the leave, and the leave is detached.

If you remove the leaves yourself you are doing 2 things: You reove some of the nutrients and trace elements the plant could have relocated, and you are creating a tiny wound to the outside world.

Is it a big deal? Probably not. But from a pure biological point of view, it makes no sense to remove them.
Extremely well said and great point! Is it a big deal? I don’t think so either and that really clarified what I need, or don’t need, to do with my deciduous trees moving forward. :) Thanks
 

sorce

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If a tree was a dog, there would be no question if pulling it's hair out before winter would be harmful.

Sorce
 

BobbyLane

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Extremely well said and great point! Is it a big deal? I don’t think so either and that really clarified what I need, or don’t need, to do with my deciduous trees moving forward. :) Thanks

the second question one should ask is, WHY do you want to pull them off prematurely, for what reason? im not saying yes or no, each to their own. but what is the reason.
many people want to defoliate trees in summer because they saw someone else do it and they 'heard' its good. well, sure but what is your goal.

i have my reasons why i pull off all the brown leaves off beeches and hornbeams in winter, in regards to hornbeams i sometimes do it before they all turn brown.
 

NewtotheArt

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the second question one should ask is, WHY do you want to pull them off prematurely, for what reason? im not saying yes or no, each to their own. but what is the reason.
many people want to defoliate trees in summer because they saw someone else do it and they 'heard' its good. well, sure but what is your goal.

i have my reasons why i pull off all the brown leaves off beeches and hornbeams in winter, in regards to hornbeams i sometimes do it before they all turn brown.
There’s really no reasoning behind wanting to remove the leaves. Being new to Bonsai (started 3 months ago), I wanted some input (which I’ve gotten great replies so far and thank you so much btw) to see if defoliation is something that benefits/harms the tree in any way. I’ve heard both sides of the aisle but just wanted some clarification. I think letting the leaves fall off naturally and whatever stragglers are left in January, remove those. A ton of great advice here. I’m very grateful for your guys replies and input. :)
 

leatherback

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There’s really no reasoning behind wanting to remove the leaves. Being new to Bonsai (started 3 months ago), I wanted some input (which I’ve gotten great replies so far and thank you so much btw) to see if defoliation is something that benefits/harms the tree in any way. I’ve heard both sides of the aisle but just wanted some clarification. I think letting the leaves fall off naturally and whatever stragglers are left in January, remove those. A ton of great advice here. I’m very grateful for your guys replies and input. :)
sounds like a plan!
 

BobbyLane

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There’s really no reasoning behind wanting to remove the leaves. Being new to Bonsai (started 3 months ago), I wanted some input (which I’ve gotten great replies so far and thank you so much btw) to see if defoliation is something that benefits/harms the tree in any way. I’ve heard both sides of the aisle but just wanted some clarification. I think letting the leaves fall off naturally and whatever stragglers are left in January, remove those. A ton of great advice here. I’m very grateful for your guys replies and input. :)
on tridents/maples they will just all fall off when ready and doesnt take long, other species prefer to hold on to them a bit longer. my patience is usually tested at these times because i love deciduous trees without leaves, but rarely would i pick off leaves that still have green on them.
 

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