How do trees survive the winter without leaves?

Winter Jewels by P. Marcinkoski

First, let’s talk about what leaves are. Leaves help trees turn sunlight into energy, but only if they are uncovered. If snow covers the leaves, they can’t make any more energy. One of the reasons some trees lose their leaves in the fall is because they won’t be able to use the leaves during the winter. So instead, trees take some of the extra energy the leaves make in the summer and store it away for winter. 

But where do they store this energy? Trees don’t have refrigerators or pantries. Instead, they store it in their roots, which are the parts of the tree that grow underground. Leafy trees will use that stored-up energy throughout the winter until they regrow their leaves in the spring. Since winters can be very long in Alberta, trees have to be careful not to use up their energy too quickly. To help slow their energy use, some leafy trees go through a process called “dormancy,” which is a fancy way of saying they slow down and rest. So winter for a leafy tree is kind of like one long nap!


This fun fact originally ran in Nature Alberta Magazine - Winter 2022