Jade tree drops older leaves similar to hair loss in aging human beings
Q: I've had my jade tree for two years. I am very careful with it and assure you nothing drastic has happened. It did overcome a mealy bug infestation. However, the leaves have turned very maroon or red and fallen off the plant at the base. The top of the jade is growing new leaves. I am very concerned because my jade hasn't dropped leaves before. What's wrong with it?
A: Do you have any hair falling off your head? I do, but I'm not bald. What this likely means is the leaves are going through normal senescence.
This could be due to the law of limiting factors for plant growth. Considering the environment the plant has been in the past two years and that it is putting on new growth indicates that this plant is shedding the old, photosynthetically inefficient leaves. In other words, out with the old and in with the new! I don't think you have anything to worry about. The plant will reach a stage of stability at some point, with the leaf growth matching the leaf drop, unless something is done to increase the light intensity and/or duration.
Q: I have an old sugar maple near the sidewalk in front of my house. The tree is very old. One of my neighbors a few years ago decided to start tapping neighborhood trees to make syrup. The neighbor does all the work, but splits the syrup with us!
It's a hard offer to pass up. However, the tree was distressed when we first bought the house, so I've been trying through the years to help it come back by having it professionally pruned and fertilized.
Lightning once struck the center mast, so that is gone. It produces a surprising amount of sap. However, given that I'm trying to get the tree to recover, I don't want to deprive it of its lifeblood. The bark gets spongy, crumbly or moldy at times, which could be related to the weather or something else. Does tapping a tree for syrup help or hurt it? I have a feeling there are more factors in play than just a quantity of sap reaching the limbs, but maybe it's that simple.
A: Normally, tapping a maple for syrup every spring will not cause any problems to the tree's health. However, from your description of the situation, I would encourage your tree tapper to give the tree a break and not go after the sap until you can get the tree's vigor back.
I would encourage you to check with a horticulturist at the county Extension Service office in your state. Go to www.csrees.usda:
gov/Extension/ and click on your state to get some names and phone numbers of people who could help.
Q: My cyclamen plants that I bought in October are doing well. I know that I am supposed to discard the flower stalks after blooming, but I waited too long so I cannot tell which are spent and which might be getting ready to bloom. There are several healthy stalks with very round heads. Others have smaller heads, but I am sure they are going to bloom.
A: I don't know what to tell you except wait until the blooming starts and then remove those stems that are not.
To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail ronald.smith@