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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
Older pine needles ready to drop off white pine.

White Pine Trees With Brown Needles

Posted by John Fulton -

Brown needles happen on pine trees, and other evergreens, all the time. Of course, some times are more striking than others. Is this a bad thing? It all depends. To begin with, evergreens only keep one to four years of green growth toward the tips of the branches. The number of years is dependent on weather conditions, the health of the tree, and the species. Needles toward the trunk of the tree turn brown each year and drop off.

If weather conditions are just right, the needles all turn brown at once. If there aren't any heavy rains or winds to help knock needles off gradually, the brown needles are quite showy. They will drop off, and the appearance of the tree will return to normal. The only exception is the green needles are now further away from the trunk. Stressful years make the brown needle phenomenon more pronounced. I would classify this year as highly stressful, with the combination of heavy rains, followed by a warm, dry fall.

As for what to do, just take good care of the trees. Fertilize the lawn area around the trees at the lawn rate to supply a pound each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 1000 square feet in the fall and the spring. The trees will get the fertilizer they need before the grass can get it. The drying winds of winter may also take their toll. Use a wind block, or treat with an antidessicant such Wilt Pruf, to keep needles from drying further in the winter.

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