I have, what I've been to... #162098 - Ask Extension


I have, what I've been to... #162098

Asked December 10, 2013, 10:35 PM EST

I have, what I've been told, is a blue spruce. I noticed that a lot of needles were falling off as you get closer to the trunk. I'm not sure if it is diseased or if it's maybe just natural dieback. A landscaper told me it needs to be trimmed so it's not so dense/full. I'm going to attach a picture in hopes that you can give me some advice on how I should trim it...or if I need to do something else. I have another picture of close up on a limb if that helps. Thanks!!

Anne Arundel County Maryland

Expert Response

Spruces, like many other evergreens, drop old (interior) needles in the fall.  This is normal and natural.  The browning we see seems minor and may just be the normal needle drop.

However, if the tree's foliage seems thinner than it used to be, it is possible that it has a fungal disease known as cytospora.  That disease usually shows the symptoms of needle browning and falling beginning at the bottom of the tree and working its way up.  It also begins on the branch starting close to the trunk and working its way out to the tip of the branch.  Another symptom of cytorpora is cankers (sunken dead areas) on the branch bark along with oozing of sap, which usually whitens as it dries. There is no cure once the disease gets into the trunk.  Infected branches should be removed before that can happen.

We will have our plant pathologist look at the photos and we will contact you if he suspects cytospora.  Otherwise, assume that your spruce is displayinig normal needle drop.


We did have our plant pathologist look at your photos. Besides the cytospora he mentioned that it is possible your tree has some type of needlecast disease. He also mentioned that the only way to diagnose exactly what it is is to contact a certified arborist to do an onsite evaluation of the tree. The following is the website for the ISA (International Society of Arboriculture), www.treesaregood.org which can help you find a certified arborist..

Also go to the following links for information on cytospora and needlecast diseases,

He also mentioned that spruces did experience fall needle drop this year but that cannot be determined from a photograph and that is when he suggested you contact an arborist.

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