Leaf Tatters

closeup of hackberry leaves with 'tatters'

"Tatters" describes the malformed appearance of some oak and hackberry leaves as they emerge from their buds in the spring. Leaves have missing leaf tissue between the veins, which gives the leaves a lacy or tattered appearance, hence the name. These symptoms have been observed since the 1980's in Iowa and more recently in Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. The causal agent remains unknown. Within a few weeks, a second flush of leaves will appear, will be free of the tatters symptoms and will remain asymptomatic throughout the rest of the season.

In the oaks, tatters primarily affects the bur oaks although it has been observed on swamp white oak, eastern white oak, and on a few red oaks. While large areas of oaks and hackberries are symptomatic, impact appears to be low. In a few locations, decline symptoms are beginning to be noted on oak trees with tatters. Look for tatters during the first week in June and report the occurrence to your Regional Forest Health Specialist.