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Falling needles are normal

Published: Thu, November 14, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Q. My white pine tree is losing lots of needles. Should I be worried?

Betty from Austintown

Q. My evergreen tree’s needles are turning brown and starting to fall off the tree. Is it dead?

Butch from Youngstown

A. First, all trees lose their leaves. Even the ones we call evergreens. Some needles last two years, others last three or more. Most of us do not notice the needles on the interior of the tree dropping throughout the season.

So why is Betty’s white pine dropping so many needles this year? Because white pines are the most dramatically affected when it comes to seasonal needle drop (some years). In some years, some white pines go into winter with just one season’s needles. The longevity of the needles is dependent on the tree species, the weather and the season. Many needles can be dropped at one time, which is what happened to Betty. Other species may never be as dramatic.

Needle drop is a natural process. Some of the instances this year were most likely brought on by the weather. If you think your tree dropped more than usual, feel free to bring a sample of old needles and new needles so we can take a look to see what might be the issue. To learn more about seasonal needle drop, visit go.osu.edu/seasonalneedledrop .

Butch’s tree was a different story. His tree was a conifer, not an evergreen. Thus, the needles are supposed to fall off each year, just like the maple tree down the street. The main thing to know is what kind of tree you have (so you do not cut down a live tree). Here are some common trees that look evergreen, but are in fact deciduous trees: Eastern larch (Larix laricina; go.osu.edu/larch); Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides; go.osu.edu/dawnredwood); Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum; go.osu.edu/baldcypress).

There are many specimens of these trees at Fellows Riverside Gardens and in many neighborhoods throughout the Mahoning Valley.

Eric Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hot line at 330-533-5538 9 a.m. to noon Mondays or Thursdays to submit your questions.

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