Normally I live in Australia where winters are quite mild. But right now I've been travelling in Asia and seeing all the trees which look dead but are not, due to it being winter, have got me thinking.

There must be a term for the state a tree is in that has lost all its leaves and resembles a dead tree but will "come back to life" next spring.

Like an equivalent of "hibernating"? Or "dormant"?

I don't mind an everyday word or a technical word only botanists would know. I don't care if it's a single word or a multi-word term. Nouns and adjectives are both fine too.

  • 1
    "Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang." —Shakespeare. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:13
  • I did think of words like "leafless" and "bare" but thought of them as descriptive rather than names of states, not that that rules them out. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:17
  • Bare trees is quite common in the US en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bare_Trees Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 0:16

2 Answers 2


Dormancy is a term that applies to some plants (including trees). From wikipedia:

Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity are temporarily stopped. ... For example, photoperiod and decreasing temperature are used by many plants to predict the onset of winter. ... Deciduous plants lose their leaves; evergreens curtail all new growth.

Trees without leaves often are referred to as bare. To some extent, the term vernal might apply.

Edit: Instead: To some extent, the term vernalized might apply, as used in its specialized sense that means having gone dormant due to exposure to cold, and being not yet devernalized.

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    "Dormant" is certainly correct. I'd take issue with using vernal to mean dormant. A vernal plant is one that requires vernalization in order to flower; thus, it would remain vernal (requiring vernalization) when actively growing. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:16
  • Yes I would regard "vernal" as being like "deciduous" in that it describes a type of tree rather than a state a tree is in. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:21
  • Vernal more commonly means 'springlike', so if you called a deciduous tree vernal, I would immediately think of it as just putting on its leaves. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 18:40
  • @MichaelOwenSartin, hippietrail, Tim: Yes; see edit Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 19:22
  • @TimLymington: To be honest, even in botany, 'vernal' is more likely to mean spring-like, rather than mean 'requiring vernalization." In ecology, vernal pools are ponds that exist only in spring. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 20:34

Like an equivalent of "hibernating"? Or "dormant"?

Deciduous trees are denudate in the winter (and winter is denudative). Denude can refer to normal seasonal leaf loss, or to abnormal leaf loss from defoliants, infestations or droughts.

denudate adjective
de·​nu·​date | \ ", -də̇t
Definition of denudate (Entry 2 of 2)


Oddly, MW doesn't list denuded as an adjective, only a verb. But my sense is that denuded is at least as common an adjective as denudate.

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