Leaf Tatter on Shade Trees

May 25, 2024

Strong winds and thunderstorms have again done damage to tree leaves.  I took a photo of a cement pad by my garage that was covered with tattered shreds of leaves from strong winds and heavy rains.  I’ve had the north side or east side of my home covered with green bits and pieces of leaves after strong winds or heavy rains with wind.  In the spring trees with larger leaves are most affected by Leaf Tatter.  As leaves emerge from the buds, the tissue is at first quite soft.  It takes several days or even a couple weeks for the leaves on a Maple or an Oak to mature and become more rigid.  Later in May and early June, new growth produces leaves much more quickly due to warmer temperatures.  Frequently we see Leaf Tatter on soft tissue between the veins of Linden, Sycamore, Oaks and Maple trees.  I’ve had small drifts of leaf tissue on my driveway and around buildings due to Leaf Tatter.

Leaf Tatter is not something that kills or destroys a tree.  It is something that you may notice on the south side of a tree after strong southerly winds or on the north side of a tree after a thunderstorm.  Most trees put on more growth later in the spring and early summer that covers Leaf Tatter damage.  Damaged leaves do not repair themselves so the leaves will be kind of ripped up all season and into autumn.  Normally new foliage covers up damaged leaf tissue.

Note the tattered Oak leaves with new growth on the end of the branch that looks much less damaged.  Learn more about Leaf Tatter and follow the link below to “Leaf Tatters on Oak & Hackberry”.


Trees in Okoboji, Storm Lake, Spirit Lake, Sheldon, Algona and all-over Northwest Iowa are subject to Leaf Tatter.  Trees that are more protected from wind will show less damage.  Baily Nursery of St. Paul, MN has selected a Sugar Maple named ‘Fall Fiesta’ that has a1 thicker leaf that is more resistant to Leaf Tatter. ‘Fall Fiesta’ Sugar Maple is a tree we offer at Del’s Garden Center.  You can see pricing and availability at delsgarden.com 

There are other biotic and abiotic issues that can also cause leaves to tatter including Anthracnose Disease and herbicide damage.  It seems that we are having more damage from herbicides.   Burn down chemical products on cover crops early in the spring is a new problem.  Damage from herbicides is also affecting trees in June as non-Roundup herbicides are drifting from Soybean fields.  Get even more information on “Anthracnose or Wind Tatters or What?” at the link below!

– Todd Brockshus, Senior Horticulturalist

Sugar Maple ‘Fall Fiesta’


Anthracnose or Wind Tatters or What?


  1. Photo from Iowa State University.   ↩︎