Help! Is my Douglas Fir dying??

nemooooApril 19, 2007

Could someone please tell me if you think this tree is dying or is there a chance it will make it? And if there is anything I can/should do for it? It is a 6 ft. Douglas Fir, that was planted in December (right after Christmas). The weather here in PA was unseasonably warm at the time, and it has been pretty wet so we have really only watered it a couple times since it was planted. It is about 10 feet north of our 6 ft. wooden fence, and the ground is usually fairly moist back there. Our soil is on the clay side, with lots of shale (we are on top of a mountain basically). The tree does get pretty heavy north and west winds - as can be seen by the small leaning arb to the west of this tree. It gets partial sun, due to a row of white pines about 20 feet south of it.

It started with a browning branch near the bottom, but looks like it is spreading. I am not a conifer expert by any means, but if you ask me it appears to have an overall brownish tinge to it, not the beautiful bluish-green color it had when we planted it. Anyway, here is the pic.. sorry I don't have a close-up, I just snapped this quickly from the kitchen window, but if anyone needs a close-up please let me know and I will try to take one and post it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

after xmas.. was it in the house as a xmas tree???

the question is whether there are live buds at the ends of the brown limbs .... they should be swelling about now .... if there are living buds .. then i would write off the browning to transplant shock ...

then i would look higher on the tree for live buds ...

basically .. you will know in a few weeks if it buds out properly or not ...

there is really nothing to do before then ...


    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Douglas-fir is also very susceptible to needlecast diseases in the humid eastern US climate. See USFS datasheet below.


Here is a link that might be useful: USFS datasheet

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 7:05PM
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Yes, resin:

I read this topic (over in the trees forum) too fast--I thought these trees were in the Pacific NW. Ugh, I had a senior moment. You are right--I have seen almost nothing but sick Douglas fir around here. They seem to do OK for a while, but as they age they almost always get some kind of disease that I have not identified, and go downhill very fast. They are also sometimes devistated by sap suckers. In spite of my love for these trees, I will not plant one here.

But there is one absolutely beautiful older one I know of. It is on the grounds of the Oatlands Plantation house south of Leesburg, VA. This tree is stunning--about 70 feet tall and as full and lush as one could wish any conifer to be.

But Douglas fir is very variable, coming from a lot of different kinds of climates in the American West. Whatever the provenance of this tree is, it should be determined and published for all who want a tree of this remarkable species here in the "mid Atlantic" states.

In any case, all this does not tell me that some lawn chemicals might not have hastened the onset of decline/death of these trees.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 7:28PM
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Ken, Excellent guess! ;) Yes it was in the house as our Christmas tree for a couple weeks, then we moved it outside. We buy B&B trees every year (I can't bring myself to put an "amputated" tree in my house and then toss it away. LOL). So we have about 5 of our Christmas trees (so far) in the yard, and have only ever lost a couple of them. Anyway, since it was unseasonably warm here, we did not move it to the garage first, but directly out to the planting hole. Yes I guess I will wait a couple weeks, as I don's see any new buds yet. Hopefully I will!! If I don't see any at all within a few weeks does that mean it is dying?

I am hoping this is just transplant shock (but 4 months later??). Thanks for the info, Resin. That data is sort of scary! Are there any truly disease-resistant conifers?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 12:19AM
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Ok I went down to the tree today and looked for buds. I am not exactly sure what the new buds look like because I always assumed they were green. ? But I did see some brownish buds on this tree. They were small and sort of dry looking, I believe they were in groups of threes. Does this sound right? Are these new live buds that will produce growth? Are they normally brown? Sorry so many questions. (heehee)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 11:51PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

yes they are brownish .. a papery cover.. and they should start extending soon .. if not already ...

you zapped all the water out of the needles by keeping it in the house .. and shocked the heck out of it when you took it outside ...

give it time.. it will either bud out.. or not ...

please report back ...

how did i know.. lol .. ken

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 7:55AM
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"Are there any truly disease-resistant conifers?"

Nothing is completely resistant to everything, but generally, your local native species can (mostly) be relied on to be reasonably disease-free (except where there is an introduced disease they do not resist, as in the case of e.g. hemlock woolly adelgid). Introduced species also often do well if they are adapted to similar climates in their homeland.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 3:44PM
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Thanks for the info!

Resin, don't even mention the W.A. word! (heehee) We just put in a grouping of 10 ft. Hemlocks in the back corner of the yard! And ever since I heard about that disease I am worried for their long-term well-being. They are so
gorgeous and I'd hate to lose them! They were raised and dug up locally though, if that helps.

Oh, another note about this sickly Douglas Fir... we did notice today that the upper branches do have some nice fresh looking buds. Our landscaper looked at it today and said just wait and it might make it because the color on top looks good. I will keep an eye on those buds (and my fingers crossed), and report back!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 12:42AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

conifers ... are .... and i hate the term .. evergreen ....

i SWEAR that i have had conifers that have been dead for a whole year before they turn brown ... in other words.. they dont bud out at all in spring... but all the old growth remains green until the following winter when they brown out for lack of water ...

the damage was done when you pulled it out of the warm house .. and put it back into mother nature ... probably not properly 'hardened off' .... for me last fall was extremely [relatively speaking] warm much too late.. and then went subarctic over night.. i have a lot of similar damage on established conifers.. and they will all be fine ... it is basically a version of 'winter burn' complicated by the xmas issue ... IMHO ...

go out later this week and see if the buds are bigger than last week ...

only time will tell ... you are responsible to keep it properly watered all this year ...


    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:02AM
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Well, just wanted to update this thread. The douglas fir did die (I think?), regardless of our watering it. For the past couple months the entire tree has been a bright coppery orange color, but it has not lost the needles! There is one small branch that still has some green at the tip, however. It is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen... it is a very pretty orange tree...hahaha And the needles just won't fall off. But they do smell SO good when you go near the tree. We have kept it in the yard because there is now a bird's nest in it, and since we won't be able to replace the tree until fall anyway, it currently does provide some privacy even though it's dead.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 11:10PM
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