SavATree - Tree Shrub and Lawn Care

Fall needle drop is a condition which looks more troubling than it is

Pine, spruce, yew, fir and many others are all called conifers and feature “needles” rather than the more familiar leaves found on deciduous trees.

While homeowners and property managers expect brilliant green leaves to turn orange, red and purple come the fall – blanketing the ground with the familiarity of autumn – conifer trees should remain that brilliant green, right? Not necessarily.

According to Gary L. Eichen, Plant Health Care and Lawn Manager at SavATree, “Despite being called evergreens, conifers will also drop their needles in the fall. Just like in deciduous trees, the needles of conifers will change colors and begin to drop in response to shorter days and cooler temperatures as winter approaches. While this may be alarming, this is normal for this time of year.”

The process is called fall needle drop. Simply put, fall needle drop refers to conifers which tend to shed some of their older, inner needles around the end of the summer. For homeowners and property managers unfamiliar with the process, it can be alarming.

“Conifers produce new needles every year. Therefore, there are always new and old needles on a tree at one time,” says Eichen. “How long these older needles stay on a tree will depend on the species. Eastern white pines will usually keep their needles for two years, while other pines, like Austrian and Scots, usually keep their needles for three years. Spruce are typically the longest at five to seven years.”

Older needles are not confined to the older branches but are found rather uniformly throughout the interior of the tree. If you notice one complete branch where the needles are all changing colors, this could signal a more serious problem than simply fall needle drop.

While it is a natural process in conifers, soil conditions and moisture definitely play a role in the overall loss of older needles throughout the tree. This year, many parts of the country experienced drought restrictions and limited rainfall. In addition, higher than average winds more quickly dried out trees where water was not being replenished. All of this leads to added stress to the overall health of many trees.

Yes, trees can often make up water loss later in the season. But many have turned their focus on storage for the dormancy of winter, not current usage, which means higher levels of fall needle drop may be possible this season.

While nothing can be done to stop fall needle drop, SavATree does offer a solution for re-emergence in the spring. It’s called ArborKelp® – a biostimulant which promotes root growth and heightens stress tolerance in plants.

“This will offset some of the “loss” these trees have suffered as well as increasing resistance to frost damage and disease,” says Eichen. “ArborKelp contains numerous hormones like auxins, cytokinins and gibberellins. These are critical for growth, but also important for defense.”

While fall needle drop is nothing to worry about, environmental conditions of 2020 mean that your conifer trees are heading into the dormant season more stressed than usual. Give them the help they need to weather the winter and emerge into spring healthy and beautiful.

For more information on ArborKelp® treatments or to schedule an appointment, click here.