Dying fir trees

Asked May 18, 2016, 5:20 PM EDT

We have several fir trees dying. They start dying at the top of the tree, then continue to die out. Can you give me a reason why this is happening? Who can I get to take down these dead trees if needed?

Lane County Oregon

3 Responses

Many Douglas-fir in our area are dying as a result of the drought. Three years of long, hot summers with extremely low rainfall is enough to kill these trees from lack of water. Most of these trees died at the end of last summer, which was particularly rough, and are now just drying out to show the red needles. It is particularly noticeable in the spring because this is the time when we should be seeing new growth and bright green needles.

The trees are dying from the top down because the roots aren't capturing enough water to send all the way to the top of the tree. Without water, the top and branches near the top die first. Lets hope for more rain this year, so we have healthier happier trees next spring.

For just a few trees in your yard you should get a certified arborist. There is a directory at PNW's chapter of the International Society of Aboriculture.
If you have acres of trees that have died in the last year, and they are larger than 12 inches in diameter at about shoulder level than then you may be able to call a consulting forester to help you sell the logs. You can find a directory of consulting foresters at the Society of American Foresters website (https://www.safnet.org/certifiedforester/findcertifiedforester.cfm)

If there is any green on some of the limbs, will they respond to water? And, how long will we know if the water is working?

If you have lost more than 2/3 of the live canopy, It is likely that the tree will not survive through the summer. If there are only a couple of branches with some browning and you have only a few trees in your yard then slow drip irrigation over extended periods may help during the depth of the summer. You won't know if the water is working until next spring when either the tree grows new needles or completely turns brown. It is not worth irrigation if you have acres of trees or only a few branches have some green needles. Those trees are dead already.