Brown Pine Needles

Asked May 30, 2019, 10:28 AM EDT

I have several ponderosa pine that have uniform browning of all their needles. The adjacent trees are not affected and the spacing is about 15 feet. It appears that this years growth will not be affected. This is not the normal loss of the 3 or 4 year old needles. These trees are 4 to 6 feet tall. Fungus or infestation? Sorry I have no pictures but will get some if you desire.

Perkins County South Dakota

3 Responses

It would be nice to see pictures - both of the needles - and where the trees are situated (hows the soil?). This could be either a pathogen or environmental. We've seen some extremes of wet/cold weather this year which could cause problems. It could be a couple of pathogens however. Examples include:

Environmental issues could develop from a number of things such as - some of the most common: standing water that damages roots and prevents uptake of water/nutrients and causes the needles to dry. If there is landscape fabric cutting into the bark around the trunk, that could also cause issues. Planting too deeply would also eventually cause the trees to stress.

I hope this helps and am available for follow up at your convenience.

Thank you for your response. To answer some of your questions here goes: There is no fabric and the soil is gravel/prairie . The trees were planted as seedlings maybe 10 years ago and have progressed well to this point. I do suspect that the warm winter then harsh cold in February may be the culprit as I have read several articles describing the consequences of warm and cold. I will wait to see if the new growth is affected. If not, it is likely the warm/cold scenario. Thank you for your time.

I think you have it - if it was dry in the fall followed by cold, there is no moisture available over the winter for the needles to respirate (they are still active in winter) so they dry out. As soon as we start warming up the needles show that damage and die. Usually the tree will recover with new growth, and we've had plenty of moisture this spring so I think they should recover.