Western red cedar dying from the top

Asked January 19, 2019, 3:19 PM EST

My large western red cedar seems to have completely gone brown from the top. The bottom branches are still green and contain lots of berries. Should I have it removed? First photo of the brown top, second of the green lower area, sorry about lighting makes it hard to see.

Multnomah County Oregon urban forestry

1 Response

Western redcedar decline has been an increasingly common problem in our area, most likely due to climate stress, particularly on certain soil and site situations. The heat and drought episodes over the last 5 years have been relatively severe compared to the last 50 years, which we think is the main trigger for decline in various species including redcedar.

In some cases, a tree with top dieback can survive and sprout a new top from below the extent of the top dieback. However, most cases I have seen with major top dieback (>50%) in the Willamette Valley and foothills end up with the whole tree dying within the next year or two. So you could just wait to see what happens before deciding about removing the tree.