White pine: Can this tree be saved?

amyspaetzle262April 10, 2008

I've lost 3 white pines in 4 years. All approximately 20 years old, in sunny and dry locations. Needles turn brown from the stem to tip and drop. No signs of holes in trunk or beetles or other bugs. Here's the latest photo. The bottom third branches have all died. I would say the tree has lost about 50% of its needles in the past two years.

Can this tree be saved?

Here's another photo showing what happened last year to another pine in a different bed.

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Can't see any heavy resin bleeding on the trunk, so probably not white pine blister rust.

Any work done around the root system (digging, heavy soil compaction from machinery, etc.)?


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 12:11PM
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Nothing has changed since I've moved in five years ago. The beds below the trees are planted with perennials and fertilized twice a year with plant tone and ironite. Every year I add compost and shredded leaves. I don't know if one tree is infecting another or just a lot of bad blight luck. I've posted in the landscape forum what to do with the existing bed with two perfect healthy looking trees. Do I just remove the dead tree and cross my fingers hoping the other two don't fall victim to the same thing? I've had white pines die in the front yard, side yard and back yard. One year they appear fine. The next they get spindley, and the next year they are completely dead. Nothing oozing out of the bark/trunk, no discoloration other than needles turning brown. Do I remove all hoping to put an end to the spread? Will any new conifer plantings be susceptible? Would topping them help to promote branching?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 12:26PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


last fall i spent 500 bucks i really didnt have.. to remove 5 pines that were twice the size of yours ... because they are fast growing soft wooded trees that like to break apart in storms .... and they were located as close to the house as yours ....

i wish i had had the foresight to do it while it was still within the capability of me and my chainsaw ....

yours look like they are right at that point... if there is any chance that you will remove them.. do it while you or a friend can do it yourselves ...

topping will not rescue a pine... they have no dormant buds.. and once the trunk is bare ... that is it.. same with a branch.. once it loses all its needles.. it is considered dead to the trunk .. but for rare exceptions ...

basically your .. or the prior owners cute little trees.. have become teenagers .. well on their way to becoming the production lumber monsters they are ... they are not really trees that should be planted within 100 feet of a house..

i suggest you really think out your plans for this house.. its garden.. and where you are going to be in 5 or 10 years ....

look at the dead one... each whorl of growth is one year. .. the pic shows 10 years growth [the first two appear to have been removed] .. plus whatever is above the picture.. some years it grew 2 feet.. other years 5 or 6 ... in 10 years.. the good ones will be double the size ....

regardless of what is causing the sudden death syndrome ... think about where you will be in 5 or 10 years ... with these monster ...

another way of putting it would be that these are forest trees ... not landscape trees ...


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Hi Amy

Our friend Ken really doesn't like large-growing trees near houses ;^) He has a point, though personally, I think he overstates the case a bit.

Anyway, nothing really jumps out at me as to the cause of these trees perishing. One question: Were you subject to drought in recent years? Trees have the capability to store large amounts of energy and therefor, often show a delayed response to a stressor. So even though things are moist, to say the least, where you are now, past drought could be the cause of this problem.

While there's nothing rare about white pine, I consider them marvelous trees. Genetically speaking, they have the capability to reach heights of 200 ft. or more. So I can't agree that they are inherently weak-wooded or prone to catastrophic failure.

I wish there was more I could offer in the way of diagnosis.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 9:13PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Hard to tell from the pictures, but can you see a root flare at the base of the trees? They may have been planted too deep to begin with or are being buried by the compost/leaves. There are other possibilities. How soon before you moved in was the brick walkway put in? If, for whatever reason, most roots went that direction, covering them could stress the tree. Do you (or your neighbor for the fenceline tree) use weed and feed or a lawn service?


    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 9:30PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

oh come on tom .. you said:

Our friend Ken really doesn't like large-growing trees near houses ;^) He has a point, though personally, I think he overstates the case a bit.

--->>> my point was i do NOT like paying to have large-growing trees removed from near the house ...

i repeatedly asked the poster to think long and hard about where the trees will be in 10 or 20 or 30 years .... and think about the costs ..

anyway .... i had mine removed... because first.. there was the ice storm.. that took the leaders off of two of them ... of course.. they bounced right back.. growing 5 feet per year ... and then a few years later.. it was the wind storm that brought down 10 foot spears... thank god the storm blew them away from the house.. and not down through the kitchen roof ...

and i agree.. these trees grow IN FORESTS to 200 feet ... and many die.. many are destroyed.. but the inherent nature of the forest is that there are no houses or people to harm ....

you cant really mean ... that you would favor a 200 foot tree 5 feet from your house .. would you .. BTWay ... at 5 feet per year.. that would be 200 feet in 40 years .... yikes...

anyway.. all a friendly debate.. pointing out the potential flaws of said tree .. in said location and said associated costs ...

have a great day all


    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 10:59AM
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Ken, you can safely assume that anything I might say here directed your way, is done in friendly fashion. That's why I'm always sticking this thing ;^) in my posts.

I DO understand where you're coming from. Safety is a big concern. Like my ninety foot silver maple hanging over my house. That thing scares me! Ninety feet and the arms of an octopus, except more of them!

My two hundred foot reference is actually to a couple WP's that are said to exist near Marquette MI. That, and fairly reliable accounts of giants that were said to exist in the initial clearcut of WI and MI a hundred years ago.

Anyway, if the OP elected to remove the trees out of the concerns you stated, I wouldn't really blame them. FWIW, I err on the side of lack of caution. I simply love tall trees, esp. if they're conifers. So, to the OP, and anyone else who climbs aboard this forum, know this: My opinions are based on that forementioned bias towards that which is huge and coniferous!

And yes, it's my birthday, and a good one too, what with the unending barrage of snow, rain, and thunder we've been receiving. I'm weird that way too ;^)


    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 4:17PM
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