Pine tree death

Asked April 26, 2019, 11:14 AM EDT

I have lost 4 pine trees in my back yard in the last 3 years. They seem fine, then I notice the needles are thinning out, then the remaining needles turn brown, and the tree is dead in a year or less. It has happened one tree at a time and 3 of the 4 trees were old 80-100 ft trees. It appeared fine last summer, but I just noticed this week that the last pine tree is dead. Probably unrelated, but I also have a dying young dogwood in the same area, and a dying old dogwood nearby. I've lost a couple old maple trees in the same area in the last 10 years as well. All my trees are dying! There is a large black walnut that towers over a corner of my yard in that area, but as far as I can determine, it shouldn't hurt any of the tree species I have back there. Should I have the soil tested? I would like to plant new trees, but want to know what's going on back there before I do so. See photos. Thank you!!

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

We're sorry to hear about the loss of your trees. We cannot determine a specific cause for loss of your pine trees. A combination of factors -- age, drought stress, soil saturation, compacted soil, excessive mulch, physical damage to trunks/roots -- all can contribute to decline of mature trees over time. When trees are stressed by environmental factors, they become more susceptible to pests and diseases as well. We're sorry to say this pine looks like it will not recover -- and we do not have recommendations for treatment. We encourage you to work with a licensed tree expert or an arborist to have it taken down safely.

Your young dogwood tree looks like it has a physical injury to the trunk. Trunk and root injury can result in branch dieback like this. Damage from mowers, string trimmers, deer rutting, and injury when that tree was transported/planted are all possibilities. If the one branch on the right side is the only one developing healthy leaves at this point, I would encourage you to replace the tree.

Try not to get discouraged! Take a look at the information on our website about selecting and planting trees. Do a soil test in the area where you would like to plant a replacement tree to find out your soil pH, organic matter content and nutrient levels. You will find all the information you need for soil testing here on our website.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has a good list of trees that are recommended for Maryland.