sick pungens can it be helped?

skyjumperJuly 7, 2012

this is a follow up to my other post showing a beautiful healthy blue spruce in the neglected ghettos of chicago while out in my suburban hood my own blue spruce are dying despite my care and attempt to save them.

many of the pungens in my hood are dying like this.

why? none of the arborists who looked at them seem to have a clue other than "needle drop" or "could be spider mites"

Pungens in 2008 when I moved in....

Shot at 2012-07-07

What they look like now in 2012...

Shot at 2012-07-07

close up of the dying branches...

Shot at 2012-07-07

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Here are a couple of links for you. They might help you to diagnose the problem. Unfortunately, with these trees, there isn't often a lot you can do about many of these conditions even if you diagnose them once the trees are already in significant decline.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:23AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

its an age thing ... yours are a bit older than that other one you saw ...

at least you werent driving with these pix.. lol ...

its happening all over SE MI ... see link.. your highly watered lawn.. may be an issue.. as the link talks about making sure needles dry ... but that still doenst matter IMHO.. its age ...

the neighbor spend hundreds on spraying his over a 2 or 3 year periods.. all that did was enrich the sprayer..

time for them to go... which gives you an opportunity to become enabled here ... and start your collection ...

if you have an itch.. make a day trip to this place, its in your greater 'hood' .. lol:

next PROPER planting time .. is fall or spring ... plenty of time for removal.. site planning.. and acquisition ...

i do not believe any of us favor large transplants for instant gratification.. unless you have it professionally done.. which means.. FULL WARRANTY ...

look for nothing bigger than about 3 feet.. IMHO ...


Here is a link that might be useful: i dont know why the pix arent showing for me

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Not age. Pathogens, which denn's links are about.

FWIW, there is a common misconception that "it's too wet" for these trees in the midwest. That's not quite right. The air is frequently too humid for their liking, but they are predisposed to these fungal maladies by drought stress.

So moist soil=good. Constantly moist air and foliage=bad. That's two different things.

Finally, what you've got there is absolutely epidemic-or is the word endemic-all over the midwest. Much as I like blue spruce, I've had to take them off the list of conifers with which one has a reasonable chance of long-term success.

And this set of problems has gotten much, much worse over the last few years. For a nice conical evergreen with blue-green foliage, look into white fir, AKA Concolor fir, AKA Abies concolor. When well grown, I like them better myself.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 11:10AM
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so i'm pretty much accepting that these trees will be dead and gone in 10 years.

so I was planning to plant a black hills to the left of the one with the dead lower branches. and also put a norway front center between them. then in 5 years or so when the new trees fill out a bit, take out the old pungens.

I'd rather not take them out now as they still provide a good screen from the neighbor.

but if planting new trees close to these diseased ones is a bad idea then...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 11:57AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they should be dead and gone.. by this fall.. when you hire or get out the chain saw ..

do you really want to look at that mess for 10 years ...

and it is an age thing tom ... i see it all over the place .... on trees that size .. i presume .. it can happen at an earlier age.. why not.. but at this size and larger.. it hits them fast and furious .. [though no border agents will die] ....

all i was saying.. is that it is that size.. or larger.. where they are hit and fail with speed ...


    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 3:51PM
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I have one that went that way and I realized it had malnutition.It was all baren under neath as in your picture and I have hit heavey with 10-10-`10.Started a compost pile underneath with all my weeds from that area coffee grounds etc.It has turned around,no doubt it will never be the same but it is growing well again and looks quite nice.I water it often.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 4:39PM
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here's a close up of some needles from the dying branches. these needs fell right off with only a slight touch.

I don't see any black spots, so I'm thinking it's not Rhizosphaera Needle Cast.

I do however see some white drainage on some of the branches close to the trunk, so Cytospora Canker may be it. and it looks like there's no cure...

Shot at 2012-07-08

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 4:55PM
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Yeah, cytospora at that stage of heavy involvement is a tough cookie. Just a personal opinion, but I'd skip the Black Hills, a vastly over-rated spruce in my world, and focus on Norway spruce, a much more vigorous and beautiful plant. I've noticed too that Black Hills, for all it's supposed drought tolerance and toughness, is kind of a wimp in my area. I really don't like them, in case you haven't noticed.

Native white spruce are a better option for someone in my neck of the woods, if one must have a Picea glauca. I have a few young ones up at my land, and I like them a lot. But the stars of the spruce show there will be the thousands of NS.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 6:33PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

+1 on skipping Black Hills.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 7:29PM
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yes I do love Norways. last year I planted 7 of them on my 1 acre and they are looking great even in this ridiculous drought they grew almost 3 feet.

I suppose I could just stick with norways for that corner. a part of me would like to mix it up a bit for variety, but i do not want wimpy trees there for obvious reasons. function trumps variety here.

now to follow ken's advice and take the pungens out now or limb them up and plant norways around them? this will be a tough one for me. i've got a couple months to think about it...

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:13PM
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I've been researching this problem with blue spruce (and many other shrubs & trees) for many years now. I believe I've identified the pathogen and have found a way to control this disease. Check out the sections on diagnosing and treating this blue spruce disease on my website at:

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 5:37PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

From Dennis W. Fulbright, Department of Plant Pathology at Michigan State University:

"We now know that a group of Phomopsis strains of unknown species are at the center of the current landscape spruce problems that we are now calling Phomopsis spruce decline. Normally,Phomopsis, a fungal pathogen, is only found on young trees in nurseries and on tree farms including Christmas tree farms. For some unknown reason, this pathogenic fungus has moved out of the nurseries and tree farms and is now causing mature tree defoliation, branch death and, in some rare cases, tree death."

Seems some cankers are morphing and when I heard him speak in 2012 he indicated they found some odd DNA not quite matching the usual canker suspects.


Here is a link that might be useful: Whole article

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:25PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

I agree w/wisconsitom -- white spruces are underused & do well in z6 or colder. Can't remember where this pic came from but pretty sure they were in z6:

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:50AM
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