Why do pine tree needles turn brown?

Written by monica wachman Google
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Why do pine tree needles turn brown?
A certain amount of browning is normal. (Getty creative)

Pine trees are evergreens. Though the entire tree normally stays green, a certain amount of individual pine needles turning brown is a natural occurrence. Extensive needle browning as well as subsequent needle loss may signal that the tree is less than healthy.

Outer needles

It is the browning and shedding of the outer needles that is the most cause for concern. Typically in these areas the needles are not replaced with new ones, and the tree might start looking bare if the problem is not resolved.


A natural cause of pine needles turning brown is ageing. Each pine needle has a life expectancy of three to four years. After that it turns brown and falls off.


If a tree's foliage is particularly dense, the needles underneath do not get adequate sunlight. Consequently, they also may turn brown and drop off.


In late summer or the beginning of fall, pine trees can suffer drought damage. Beginning at the treetop, the needles turn yellow, then light brown and then drop off. If the drought is severe enough, some trees will die.


High levels of salt in soil can cause pine needles to first yellow at their tips and then turn brown. Damage can be localised or affect the outer portions of the entire tree.


Aphids and mites drain the sap from needles and can kill them if the infestation is great. The mountain pine beetle has done considerable damage to pine trees in western Canada. The larvae live under the bark and feed on the tree during the winter months, eventually causing the needles to brown and fall off and the tree to die.

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