M is for Marcescence on A to Z Blogger Challenge

  • Post published:04/15/2013
  • Post comments:7 Comments
Beech Leaves November 3, 2010

M is for Marcescence. Marcescence refers to  the retention  of dead plant parts that are usually shed.  We all know that trees lose their leaves in the fall. Some of us may have noticed that oak trees, and beeches carry their dead leaves will into the fall. And maybe until the new leaf buds give the old leaf a final shove in the spring. Over the past few years I have noticed that there seem to be a lot more beeches in our woodland than there used to be. They are easy to notice in the winter because they still carry so many of their dry brown leaves. They have not been abscissed or torn from their branches. I wrote about beeches and marcescence here.

Diorama of forest progression at Fisher Museum

I was also fortunate enough to meet Dr. John O’Keefe who retired recently from the Harvard Forest (maintained by Harvard University, not located in the town of Harvard) and he told me that it is possible that the reason there are so many new beeches, is because there has been a resurgence in the wild turkey population. Beech nuts are a very nutritious nut and appealing to turkeys. We all know that birds help spread seeds of all kinds of plant. I wrote about my fascinating talk with John O’Keefe here. The Fisher Museum at the Harvard Forest has a magnificent set of dioramas explaining the history of forest progressions here in New England.

Old beech leaf wtih new bud

If you look at a beech branch in the fall you will clearly see the tightly furled leaf bud that will  push the old leaf off in the spring. It is very firm and will feel like a thorn. But it is a leaf bud.

I like knowing the word marcescence. Will you find a way to fit marcescence into your conversation?

To see what else begins with M today click here.


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. WildBill

    One of my favorite terms. I use it often! I really enjoy marcescent parts on non-woody stem plants. For instance the fertile frond on sensitive fern that is still visible in the early spring of the dead flower on queene anne’s lace.

  2. Denise Hammond

    I so regret not having planted a beech tree when I moved here 40+ years ago. Wild turkeys used to be a common sight back then. But they must be coming back here, too, because the traffic report a few weeks ago mentioned a jam due to a wild turkey in the roadway. lol

  3. Pat

    WildBill – You may be the first person I have met who is familiar with this term.
    Denise – Wild turkeys in our area have been know to slow down traffic. THe last troop I saw had males in full feathered display, but they were in the field necxt to the road. Thank heaven.

  4. Jessica

    What an interesting post! I never knew this, and I love learning new things.

    Have fun with a-z. 🙂

  5. Pat

    Jessica and Sarah – Learning about interesting things is what I love about blogging. We all have so much to share.

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