Pines with Spots on Needles

Asked October 10, 2019, 2:18 PM EDT

Several white pines are growing on the eastern side of a home in West Ocean City, MD. A few of the pines are showing full branch die-back and needle drop. Branches still containing needles on the same trees have spotting on the needles themselves. No fruiting bodies were observed, nor any galls, nor dead tips on the needles. The home is on the water so there is a possibility of salt water encroachment, and there is a lawn service at both the residence and the neighboring properties, who may or may not utilize herbicides in their work. Any idea what this could be and how to treat it?

Worcester County Maryland

6 Responses

Hi - We would like to see more photos of the trees that are affected (to see if there is any type of pattern to the symptoms). It would be helpful to see a photo of a whole tree and the whole planting area. Also, to our eyes, this looks like it might be loblolly pine or another type of pine. Can you tell us how many needles are grouped into each bundle? (On white pines it's five, on some other pines it's two or three). We just want to confirm that we have the correct species. Also, have there been any notable changes in the planting area recently? Construction? Water accumulation (in last year's heavy rains)? How long ago were the pines installed?



Thanks for your prompt response. They may in fact be loblolly pines, I will double check this coming week as I am currently out of town. I cannot answer your questions precisely about notable changes in the planting area as I have just started working on the property, but it does not appear that any new construction has occurred and the houses nearby all look like they have been there for several years at least. I would put money on water accumulation last year, as the property is low-lying and waterfront, surrounded by marsh. I do not know when the pines were installed but they are about 15'-25' tall. One pine had a completely dead leader but there were remnants of trumpet vine on the trunk and in the upper branches, so perhaps it is a coincidence? I will forward additional pictures when I return to the area.

If the pine tree is still standing, prune out the dead leader and look for possible insects and or evidence of disease. You can split the leader and look. Any insects are secondary issues not the reason for decline.
The vine will not kill the tree but we recommend that you remove it. Cut the vine at the base of the tree.
We look forward to your photos.


Apologies for the delay in these additional pictures. The pines have 2-3 needles per bundle. The homeowner has responded with more information as well- the trees were installed 20 years ago and have been healthy until recently. No new construction has occurred in the area in the last 10 years.

I did prune out the dead leader from the one tree. No evidence of bugs inside. I also removed the vine from the tree.

The homeowner also just had the largest of the grouping removed because of its decline. You can see the stump between the hydrangeas in the second photo.

Seem to be loblolly pines. It may be a needle cast disease, which we would not recommend spraying, but would address by maintaining tree vigor as much as possible.

For a definitive diagnosis, contact the local extension office and take in samples which they can send to UMD lab.