Browning Holly Tree

Asked January 3, 2019, 3:02 PM EST

Hello Extension Expert

All the leaves on my 10 foot holly tree have turned brown and it has dropped numerous leaves. This started mid- September and is continuing. I had a reputable arborist look at it and he took a number of samples to send to his lab for pathology resuts. Unfortunately the results were inconclusive. I expect this tree to continue to drop leaves probably to the point where it will be leafless. What's the change it will recover and sprout new leaves ? What's the chance it will completely replace all leaves. What is the timeframe I should wait to determine what it is going to do before I decide to have it removed ? Thanking you in advance for any information you may provide and your expertise in this area.

Baltimore County Maryland abiotic issues trees brown leaves on holly

1 Response

If this is an evergreen type of holly, and all the leaves are brown, it is likely dead.
You could wait until spring to see if it pushes out any new growth, but evergreen hollies should not turn brown.

The fact that it happened all at once suggests an abiotic/environmental problem- meaning not disease or pest related, but more likely weather or planting/site/care problems.
We heard and saw a good deal of evergreens dying this year due to the incredible record breaking rains this last growing season. Many evergreens don't like "wet feet"- soils that are overly moist. American hollies can tolerate damp soils, but very few plants can sit is waterlogged soil for much time and survive.
Perhaps this is a low area, or one where water collects?

Other possibilities include chewing or damage of trunk by wildlife or string trimmer, anything that would stop roots from being able to supply the plant with nutrients or incorrect use of certain pesticides/chemicals over the area.
This list is not exhaustive, and you may not be able to figure out what happened.