Needle drop is a normal process in the lifecycle of an evergreen, but can be worrisome for homeowners not familiar with this seasonal change. Every needle on an evergreen has a certain life span. As it ages, the needle experiences a number of stages. This includes turning yellow, brown and eventually dropping off the plant. The length of time it takes the needle to experience all these stages varies by evergreen species. Usually an individual needle lives from one to four years, with many being shed in the fall, causing a dramatic appearance all at once. White pine trees appear to have the most drastic needle drop. Ordinarily, every fall the 2 or 3 year old needles will change color and drop, which leaves only the current season’s growth on the tree. The tree may appear sparse, until new growth starts the following season. Other evergreen species, such as Spruce trees experience more gradual changes. The older needles fall at different times and not all at once.
Due to the drought we experienced this year seasonal needle drop may be more noticeable than in past years. During times of environmental stress more needles will drop. It is part of the plant’s protective mechanisms, which conserves moisture for the strongest and healthiest needles.
Yellow or brown needles and dropped needles are also symptoms of many insect and plant diseases that affect evergreens. It’s important to inspect plants carefully, to ensure they are experiencing a normal phenomenon and not more harmful issues.
KTS provides trained Certified Arborists that can identify normal plant processes versus more serious conditions. Contact the Plant Health Care Department today to have someone visit your property for a thorough analysis.