Tatters is a late spring early summer condition that affects the emerging leaves of oaks and, rarely, hackberries. As the new leaves emerge, they appear lacy or tattered. This condition has been observed throughout several mid-western states for more than ten years. The first reports were from Iowa in the 1980's. More recently, tatters symptoms have been observed in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The cause remains unknown. The long-term impact remains low. Early spring defoliation in deciduous trees is a recoverable stress given the opportunity for re-foliation and enough time to rebuild food reserves.
In the oaks, tatters primarily affects the bur oaks. It has also been observed in Minnesota on swamp white oak, eastern white oak, and on a few red oaks. Newly emerging leaves have missing leaf tissue between the veins, which gives the leaves a lacy or tattered appearance, hence the name tatters. In some years, large acreages have been affected in southern Minnesota. This year, tatters appears to be scarce except in Wabasha and Fillmore Counties where bur oaks are showing light symptoms. Tatters is most apparent in the tree crowns during the first week in June. Please report any symptoms of tatters in your area to DNR foresters.