Why do some species of oak (Quercus spp.) retain their leaves through fall and winter? I've found that these leaves are called marcescent leaves. There must be some benefit that the tree gains from this because it seems like it would increase the possibility of limb damage due to snow accumulation on the leaves.
The trait might not necessarily allow for an advantage, but a few possibilities have been proposed:
- Nutrient return to the soil when needed in the spring
- Less palatability to grazing animals