Do our White Pines have root rot and do they need to be removed?


I understand that the wet summer and heavy rains are causing root-rot in the white pines. We have lots of them sitting in marine clay. The clay is oozing up around several in our backyard. I assume the roots are rotting and the tree is at risk of toppling? I guess the trees are dying? Two of the trees are only 10.5 yards away from our house. I am in steep negotiation with my husband to have several removed, particularly the ones near our home. I don’t thing putting soil down into the holes will save the trees?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

What I see isn’t the typical presentation for root rot, though it is interesting from a horticultural perspective (though I’m sure less so than from the homeowner’s perspective…!). Generally, we would look for aboveground symptoms in the tree itself, such as needle browning or general decline–you can read more in this Univ of KY page on Eastern white pine problems. If you have noticed any of those symptoms, you could send along some photos for confirmation.

After consulting with some colleagues, I’m thinking the ooziness you’re seeing is more likely to be something like snow mold, a fungal pathogen that preys on turfgrass under snow or in cool, wet conditions. There are multiple types of snow mold, so you could always submit a sample of the material to the UMaine Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab for confirmation (I am sending your original picture to them to see if they can verify just from the one shot). If this is the case, it’s separate from any health issues with your trees, though it may be an indicator of your soil conditions.

All of that said, as you note in your question and have no doubt mentioned in your household negotiations, the heavy clay soil conditions are not ideal for white pines (they like it sandy and well-drained) and you are probably looking at decline over the long run, with the attendant risk of them dying off and/or falling. With them situated close to your home, I am recommending that you consult a State of Maine-licensed arborist to get a better idea on-site of whether you should take them out now.