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[OP]
Newbie
Nov 16, 2017
15 posts
5 upvotes

Is my tree sick?

Hello rfd,

My pine tree is looking rather bare. Although there is new growth at the tips, there are no pines growing near the trunk. The bark is peeling and has gone through 4 years of caterpillar infestation.

Thanks in advance.
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10 replies
Deal Addict
Dec 4, 2011
1871 posts
1475 upvotes
Montréal
First of all that is a blue spruce (Picea pungens "Glauca") not a pine.

Hard to tell what it could be without knowing your location. The caterpillars would be the first thing I would eliminate, you need to find and destroy the nests in the spring (or get an arborist to do it).
Deal Fanatic
Nov 21, 2013
6089 posts
4391 upvotes
From the pics it just look fine to me, I would not be worried there is new "fruits" (I don't know how it's called) at the tip of the branches
Deal Fanatic
Jul 7, 2017
6812 posts
3103 upvotes
SW corner of the cou…
It's very normal for leaves (or needles) near the trunk (especially for branches not near the top) to lose leaves. The shaded leaves may get parasitic (use more nutrients than the generate) and also get old and inefficient. Conifers in general don't develop new leaves on old wood.

Bark peeling/cracking is also fine. That's normal and due to the tree trunk growing and the bark (cambium, IIRC) growing. This active layer grows wood on the inside and bark on the outside (which is, IIRC actually dead cambium).
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Deal Addict
Dec 4, 2011
1871 posts
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Montréal
I have 2 blue spruces and the loss patterns of the needles from the trunk outwards are nowhere near like what OP have shown.

Yes, needles on older branches that the tree will eventually turn red and die but the pattern here (like a cylinder inside was cut out) is way too regular for that. The caterpillars are the likely culprit.

And yes, the bark splits as the tree grows but not the scaling and scabbing shown here once again.

These are 10 years old (planted them myself) and show nowhere near the loss as the tree I see in the first post

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Deal Addict
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Jun 13, 2010
3616 posts
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Blue spruce are huge trees. That tree is way too close to the fences. It'll take years but the roots will damage them and tree itself will be right up against them and will also hang way over into the neighbor's yard. I had one and it was over 35 feet tall and 12 feet around at the base and the trunk was 18 inches.
Jr. Member
Nov 27, 2020
140 posts
352 upvotes
tew wrote: Blue spruce are huge trees. That tree is way too close to the fences. It'll take years but the roots will damage them and tree itself will be right up against them and will also hang way over into the neighbor's yard. I had one and it was over 35 feet tall and 12 feet around at the base and the trunk was 18 inches.
Nah, it won't grow because I seen it in the magazine this size and my wife loved it so I plant it.
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Oct 12, 2007
5988 posts
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Yes, it's a blue spruce (picea pungens) but I can't tell what variety it is. If it's a garden variety Colorado blue spruce, I agree with others that the tree will be way too big for that kind of setting. There are, however, shorter/smaller varieties that are perfectly suitable and this might be one of them. That being said, the fence and shed will limit light getting to the needles and past infestations can't have helped the tree. I would say that it's doing okay given the location and the caterpillar infestations. Just be ready to prepare a good soap mixture in the event of another infestation.

And it's okay to refer to them as pines, although it is more precise to call them spruces.
Deal Addict
Dec 4, 2011
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I guess I am pedantic given that I work for the Canadian Forest Service as a researcher (part of my work involves spruce budworm infestations)

Like calling a dog a cat in my book, two completely different species (I would understand calling a balsam fir a spruce, much more similar) with completely different needs and architecture.

The ones in my backyard are the Hoopsi cultivar which is one that does not grow as tall as you stated.

Seems like there are enough experts here so good luck with your tree.
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Oct 12, 2007
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admiralackbar wrote: I guess I am pedantic given that I work for the Canadian Forest Service as a researcher (part of my work involves spruce budworm infestations)

Like calling a dog a cat in my book, two completely different species (I would understand calling a balsam fir a spruce, much more similar) with completely different needs and architecture.

The ones in my backyard are the Hoopsi cultivar which is one that does not grow as tall as you stated.

Seems like there are enough experts here so good luck with your tree.
I also have a couple of Hoopsii specimens. One is over 30 years old and is as tall as my two storey house. I confess that I wasn't expecting that as they are hyped as being dwarf. I have since learned that 30-40' is not overly unusual but they are far more of a columnar shape
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Jun 13, 2010
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CaptSmethwick wrote: I also have a couple of Hoopsii specimens. One is over 30 years old and is as tall as my two storey house. I confess that I wasn't expecting that as they are hyped as being dwarf. I have since learned that 30-40' is not overly unusual but they are far more of a columnar shape
I guess 30-40' is considered dwarf for a spruce tree. The Colorado blue spruce is 50-75', 67-87% taller.

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