Leaves are a good example of mulch material that will eventually decompose into soil. The leaves will keep moisture in the lawn and if the cover is thick enough it may kill the grass however certain grass seeds are very competitive and may be able to survive in tough conditions. Also, thin layers of mulch are also known to be beneficial to keeping a healthy lawn. It depends on the type of tree whether it will seed because different trees have seedlings in different parts so it may not be in the leaves. The best thing would be to experiment on a patch of lawn and see what happens.
Trees do not grow from leaves; they sprout from seeds. If you have a combination of the two, there are some species of trees that sprout prolifically via seed dispersal (maples are a good example). If the mat of leaves is thick enough, you will definitely kill the lawn (and it won’t take a few years).
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