What to Do When Evergreen Trees Are Dying from Top Down

What to Do When Evergreen Trees Are Dying from Top Down

If you were admiring your evergreen and noticed brown, dead needles at the top, something is probably wrong. That isn't normal and could be a serious problem.

Plus, a pine or spruce tree donning a brown crown is no pretty picture. But does it mean the tree is dying from the top down? Or is the tree just in need of some TLC?

Read on to find out why your pine or spruce is browning and what you can do to save it.

 

How to Fix Pines, Spruces and Evergreens Turning Brown from the Top Down

1) Harsh Winter Wind

Problem: Frigid winter weather poses a threat to pine and spruce trees, particularly their treetops. The crown is an easy target for harsh wind or sunscald, turning needles brown or purple at the end of winter or beginning of spring.

How to Fix: Avoid winter injury by treating trees with an anti-desiccant spray in fall. Also, keep trees well watered throughout the year. A tree with too much or too little hydration gets stressed out and is more susceptible to damage.

2) A Pest or Disease

Problem: A number of pests and diseases can cause a pine or spruce treetop to turn brown. Let’s break down a few of the usual suspects:

  • White pine weevils lay their eggs on a tree’s main branches in spring. By early-to-mid fall, the hatched beetles start feeding on tree stems, cutting off their water flow.
  • Bark beetles leave a yellow-to-brownish tint on tree crowns. You’ll also find sawdust on the bark and base of the tree. They primarily target older or weakened trees.
  • One of the few needle diseases that attacks from the top down is pine wilt disease. Small worms called nematodes invade trees and quickly cause severe damage.

How to Fix: Inspect your tree for debris or insect remnants that can point to an infestation. Once you’ve identified symptoms beyond browning needles, call in an arborist for a free consultation. In many cases, using an insecticide or pruning away infected branches will get your tree back in shape.

If you’ve seen any of these symptoms, ask your Davey tree doctor how you can help your tree!

  • The Tree Doctor September 18, 2018 >Hi Clay, The best thing would be to have a certified arborist come out and take a look at the tree. They can determine whether that tree is showing signs of a disease or pest infestation. They will be able to prescribe a treatment plan accordingly. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that can help you with hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree care company: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Clay.
  • Clay Titus September 15, 2018 >I live in east Texas and have a massive Pine tree next to my house that is brown only at the top. I hope it's something that can treated and it's not dying. I noticed at the bottom around the bark some whiteish granular psych that resemble what fertilizer looks like. I'm not seeing any sawdust from beetles. I would very much appreciate any ideas you have. Thanks, Clay
  • The Tree Doctor July 31, 2018 >Hi Ed, The loss of the top few feet on a pine can occur because of several possible issues. There is often a slight crook/shrinkage/distortion of the trunk where the foliage begins to brown accompanied by a lot of sap flow in the same area. The distorted area interferes with water movement above that point, causing the branches and needles above to turn brown and die. Canker diseases and certain insects, either separate or in combination, have been suggested as the culprits. I highly recommend that you have a certified arborist come out and take a look. They will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment plan. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area. Here is a resource that can help with hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree care company: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Ed.
  • The Tree Doctor July 30, 2018 >Hi Jim, The loss of the top few feet on Colorado spruce seems to be on the rise. There is often a slight crook/shrinkage of the trunk where the foliage begins to brown accompanied by a lot of sap flow in the same area. The distorted area interferes with water movement above that point, causing the branches and needles above to turn brown and die. Depending on severity, the dead top can be removed, and a lower, healthy branch trained to take over as a new leader. If you are concerned, I would recommend having a certified arborist come out and take a look. They will be able to diagnose what is going on and make recommendations on treatment options if necessary. Here is a resource for hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree care company: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you, Jim.
  • Ed Ison July 27, 2018 >Can I save the pine tree I merely cutting the dead top off to where I have green branches on the trunk
  • Jim Ignagni July 25, 2018 >The top verticle shaft of my blue spruce has turned brown but the rest of the tree is doing beautifully, lots of nice blue new growth
  • The Tree Doctor July 2, 2018 >Hi Tim, I highly recommend you have a certified arborist come out and take a look at those green giants. They will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment plan, if necessary. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area. Here is a resource that should help you with finding a reputable tree company or certified arborist: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Best of luck to you, Tim.
  • tim garner June 28, 2018 >several of my green giants turned completly brown they were all about 12 feet tall. The other ones are doing fine
  • The Tree Doctor June 25, 2018 >Hi Robert, I recommend you have a certified arborist come out and inspect the trees in person. They will be able to accurately diagnose the tree and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly. Unfortunately, Davey does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that will help you with finding a certified arborist or reputable tree service in your area: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Hopefully, this helps. Best of luck to you Robert!
  • The Tree Doctor June 25, 2018 >Hi Sheila, I recommend you have a certified arborist come out and inspect the tree in person. They will be able to accurately diagnose the tree and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly. You can contact your local Davey office in the Nashville area directly at (615) 800-4977. You can also fill out a quick consultation request form on their local webpage here: http://www.davey.com/local-offices/nashville-tree-service-and-lawn-service/#main-form. Best of luck to you. Here if you have any more questions, Sheila.
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