Tulip Tree with Brown Withered Leaves


My Tulip Tree is thriving…but now see a couple of branches with brown withered leaves, looks almost as if it was burned. The rest of the tree is good…any ideas?


As someone who works outside for a living, I can say with confidence that this has been one very hot summer!  Your tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, may be showing root stress symptoms related to this.  Extended periods of hot, dry weather are likely contributing factors to your tree’s browning leaves.

Have you noticed any black spotting on the leaves prior to them browning?  According to the University of Illinois:

“Tulip trees will sometimes develop a black spotting or speckling between the veins of the leaves. These spots vary from pinpoint- to pinhead-sized. The rest of the leaf tissue eventually turns yellow and then brown, with early defoliation the final stage. In cases we have seen, the spotting does not occur on all leaves, and only the spotted leaves drop from the tree.”

They attribute this to environmental stress- both from hot, dry weather and also too much water causing a lack of soil oxygen.  In both cases, the common factor appears to be root stress. Fortunately trees do not die from this condition, but the early leaf drop appears to serve as a type of self-pruning.

What I would suggest doing is assuring your tree is getting the water it needs.  Try putting your hose on a trickle for about 20 minutes to a half hour at a time 2-3 times a week during our dry periods.  If your tree is in a garden, you can top dress the soil with compost and mulch around the base, ensuring you do not put the mulch right up against the trunk as this can cause rotting.

When you think about it, trees are living beings that require nourishment and water just like we do.  Good luck with your tree.