How to determine if your pine tree is dying

Written by dale yalanovsky
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How to determine if your pine tree is dying
Brown needles and no new growth indicate a pine tree is dying. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Pine trees are hardy plants that grow primarily in the northern latitudes. In North America alone, there are 35 different species of evergreen pine trees. Their long, needle-like leaves are their most distinguishing attribute. Unlike other types of trees that use flowers to seed themselves, pine trees use pine cones to distribute their seeds. Observe sick or dying pines over a period of months to accurately ascertain whether the pine can come back to life, of if it has truly died.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Look at the pine tree for damage. Although pine trees may die because of insect infestation, the underlying cause might be a stress-related issue. Windstorms that blow pine trees over are common pine tree killers. Damage done to the root system by digging, being run over by vehicles or from drought and inadequate soils can kill a pine tree. If any of these factors are present, the pine tree might be dying.

  2. 2

    Examine the tree for new growth and brown needles. Brown needles are dead needles. If the entire tree is covered in brown needles, the chances are that the pine is dying or already dead. If brown needles are present in abundance, check the branches for new growth like needles and buds. If there is no new growth showing and the pine needles are brown, the tree is most likely dead.

  3. 3

    Observe the area at the base of the tree for pieces of fallen bark. A large amount of fallen bark is an ominous sign that the pine tree is dying. If fallen bark coincides with brown needles and no new growth, either the pine tree is dying, or it is already dead.

  4. 4

    Inspect the area underneath the bark for signs of beetle infestation. Common pine bark beetles begin infesting pine trees near the top and work their way down. They leave galleries beneath the bark, which are essentially channels into which they deposit eggs and larvae. If there are brown needles near the top of the tree, and you notice beetle infestation near the bottom where you are standing and inspecting, there is little or no chance of recovery.

Tips and warnings

  • Unless there is a confirmed beetle infestation observed, wait for several months or up to two years in some cases of severe windstorm damage. Beetle-infested trees must be cut down, removed and burnt immediately to stop the infestation of other trees in the area.

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