Ginko leaves fail to develop

Asked May 31, 2019, 7:47 AM EDT

Why do the tiny leaves of my ginko tree wither a few days after they emerge?

Ramsey County Minnesota

5 Responses

Leaves that wither shortly after emerging in spring are often evidence of winter damage.

Despite apparent normal spring development after severe winter cold, unseen is significant damage to the xylem cells (long tubes that conduct water upward). Up to this point the individual plant has been able to supply its foliage with sufficient water. But, the limited amount of healthy conductive tissue has been working at maximum efficiency to supply the plant’s water needs. After a few days of warm weather in early spring, the plant is unable to absorb and translocate water as rapidly as it is lost. The result is leaf and stem death.

However, other factors could account for the damage shown in the photos. We'd need much more information to speculate about that or diagnose the problem.

Watchful waiting is appropriate at this time. If the damage is limited to a branch or two the tree may recover fully. The tree's prospects will be apparent by mid-summer. If the outcome is questionable then, consider asking a certified arborist or forester to assess the tree's health onsite and recommend a course of action.

Thank you for your quick response.
To confirm that I understand you--the most likely cause of leaf withering is that the "tubes" that feed water to the leaves are "constricted."
If this is the case, my efforts to water the ginko fails to provide sufficient moisture to keep the leaves and stems alive.
(The tree has abundant buds, almost all of which are now dried out or have withered leaves.)

That's correct. The plant's ability to transport water and nutrients to the leaves is compromised when the parts that carry them are damaged by winter cold. The new leaves demand more water as they grow and they wither when they don't get it. If that happens, watering will not prevent it.

This tree (or its replacement) will grow on a city lot in Saint Paul. Descriptions of the cultivar (Autumn Gold) indicate that it's hardy enough for this climate. Should I be concerned about future cold damage if we have an unusually cold winter? Thank you.

Autumn Gold ginkgo is a tree with no disease or insect problems. It is hardy to zone 3. I am surprised and sad that your tree had winter damage. It is a very nice tree.