What is wrong with my Loblolly Pine?

julia42(9a)November 3, 2010

I have two Loblolly Pines in the front yard of my new house - I live in your standard (south) Houston suburb. In general, my pines have looked a little less healthy than the neighbors - losing brown needles all summer, a few droopy branches near the bottom. They're probably about 10 years old.

Now, I've noticed some round growths popping up from under the bark of one of the trees (the healthier looking one, oddly enough). These growths are in an area right near the base of the trunk, covering one side of the trunk about 8 inches across and about 18 inches in height. There's tons of sap dripping out (which you can see in the picture. Can anyone tell me what this could be? Is my tree a goner?

The only thing I've wondered about is that the previous owners had a bunch of Asian Jasmine planted around the tree - right up to the trunk. There's always a few vines growing up which I snip back, but they haven't been in the area that has these growths (not since I've been here, at least). Could the Jasmine be causing problems for the tree?

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That kind of looks like the same thing I have on some of my White, Red, and Austrian pines and some of the spruces and does not appear to be of any concern here.
Pines do loose needles from the last year or so after this years needles grow out and take over. That is normal unless the needle loss is at the tips of the branches.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 6:38AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It sure looks like the kind of damage that the pitch moth larvae make, but I don't believe that you'll find them in Texas. How about a call to your local extension office to find out if there have been any trends with insect infestations in Loblolly Pines. If they are of no help, and these trees are important to you, you may want to consider calling on a ISA Certified arborist for a consultation. I stress the certified aspect strongly....diagnostic work should never be done by untrained 'tree guys'.

Also, can you think of any change in environmental factors for your trees? Nearby construction, grade change, drought, flooding, etc.?

You might also post your picture and description over in the Tree Forum, where several other experts might get a chance at some arm chair diagnosing. ;-)

I'd like to see more images, too. How about one showing more of the trunk, not just the close up? You'd be surprised at how much we learn from seeing pictures of the trunk, the canopy, the base of the tree, etc.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 11:24AM
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Well, now I've consulted a master gardener and 2 certified arborists. They all agreed that the growths were galls produced by the tree because of some kind of damage - one said fungal, one said probably borers, one said probably old damage from Ike. Who knows? They also all said the tree was otherwise healthy and could probably last another 5-10 years or longer. I think we may go ahead and replace it now, though, rather than wait and see and have to replace it around the time when we may be trying to sell the house (5 -10 years...). The only environmental factor I can think of would be 6 weeks without rain, but surely it's weathered that before...

I had a number of photos to post, but could only figure out how to post one...

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 8:06PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I typically think of canker diseases (caused by a Fusarium fungus) as being higher up on the tree than what you've described, but I'm really not certain of that. The symptoms (the appearance) of pitch canker and certain beetles or borers can be very similar. Though someone who knows how to diagnose either one of those should be able to do so in person.

If you are going to replace it with another Loblolly (and I'm all for that), please know that both disease AND insect problems can be invited into a host plant by physical damage to the tree. Inspect the tree for improper pruning, scrapes or dings to the trunk, etc. Avoid any weedeater or mower damage by mulching the tree after planting so that you don't have to keep the grass down around it.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 5:15PM
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