Is there a remedy for pine trees that have lost a large amount of needles?


We have noticed that the pine trees have had an unusual amount of tags falling especially in the last three weeks. We are looking for a remedy or if he needs to remove a tree.


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

Unfortunately, this is something of a known issue at the moment. There are actually numerous potential causes for needle drop–including drought, winter dehydration, and salt runoff from winter road treatments. But if those things have never been a problem for your trees before, you’re probably seeing the effects of what’s known as White Pine Needle Disease complex, a suite of co-occurring problems which is affecting pines across the Northeast. Please see this Maine Forestry Service forest conditions update (disease section) for the current widespread assessment in Maine–it’s not great news.

From our state forest pathologist, Aaron Bergdahl:

“The white pines are showing symptoms of a disease complex called white pine needle damage.  It causes infected trees to drop their older needles due to infection by fungi (typically a disease called brown spot needle blight, but there are other similar fungi that can cause this – see this link for more details). The pines in many areas of Maine have been suffering from infection by this disease complex for several years to varying extents — in fact, many white pines in Maine have been impacted dating back to 2011, especially in the southwest.  This year the disease symptoms (needle discoloration/yellowing and needle drop) are quite severe throughout Maine and even the entire Northeast region. We are getting many reports/calls/emails per day from concerned citizens. The future of infected trees is uncertain.  If they lose all their needles, the trees will likely die. However, what we typically see with this disease complex is a loss of older needles and trees holding their current-year needles. The trees will appear more green (but will have thin-looking crowns) when the infected, yellow needles drop. These few remaining new needles are often enough to help the trees get through the season, but this is not great for their general health and growth. In some cases the stress that WPND causes makes the trees vulnerable to root disease and/or insect attack. We encourage people to monitor their trees for these secondary impacts.”

There is some preliminary data suggesting white pines may be trying to adapt to these new conditions, but it’s very early. If your pines are specimen trees, we recommend hiring a ME-certified arborist to evaluate them and see if some of the preventative treatments are in order.

Other than this unfortunate news, I wish you happy gardening.