By JEFF BURBRINK
Elkhart County Extension
Last week, a panic began to set in for many people. After seeing pine trees dying by the hundreds because of the drought, they were alarmed when their surviving pines began to show signs of further discoloration. Most of the affected trees were white pine. Fortunately, this type of yellowing is a natural part of the pine tree life cycle.
White pines that died from drought generally turned a golden brown color. In many cases, the entire tree turned brown. In some cases, however, the tips of branches died back or the top portion of the tree died, leaving green branches near the bottom.
Even with a little green still on the tree, the plants are so disfigured most people do not want them in their landscaping.
The yellowing that began to show up last week is natural fall needle drop. Pines lose some of their older needles each year, usually in the fall.
This yellowing occurs in the interior of the tree rather than on the outer tips of branches. In most years, the yellowing goes by unnoticed.
About one-third of the time, the yellow color is dramatic enough to catch the eye of the casual observer.
It is unknown why needle drop is more pronounced in some years than others, but some speculate that drought or other stress factors play a role in bringing the color change to our attention. I would have to agree with that guess.
I would encourage readers to be sure to water all your trees once a week this fall if natural rainfall does not occur. Continue watering as late into the season as you can.
Drought stress will continue to be a serious threat to our trees well into next summer. Re-hydrating trees now will relieve them of water stress well into the summer months next year.