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The Problem with Blue Spruces

The Colorado Blue Spruce is a beloved tree for many people. Rightfully so, as their silvery-blue needles and perfect Christmas tree shape offer a pleasing addition to any landscape. The Blue Spruce is often used for privacy, windbreak, or as an ornamental tree. However, we have often found perplexed customers with questions as to why their once beautiful Blue Spruce is now turning brown from the bottom up and losing needles. In this blog, we will discuss a problem we see all too often with Blue Spruce trees in the Springfield, MO area.

blue spruce evergreen tree

Colorado Blue Spruces are not well adapted to our wet springs and hot, humid summers. The climates they prefer are cooler and dryer. The excess moisture in our Missouri weather is the perfect environment for several fungal diseases, including Rhizosphaera Needle Cast Disease.

blue spruce needlecast disease

Needle Cast disease generally infects trees two years or older and will start from the bottom of the tree and work its way up. The needles turn coppery-brown and fall off. If not treated in time, it can infect and kill the entire tree. To determine if the disease truly is Needle Cast, you will need a trained eye to inspect the stomata of the needles for tiny black fruiting bodies. Unfortunately, once needles on an evergreen die they do not come back. However, if treatment begins early in development, new growth can come in, and the damage will appear less noticeable over time. While the Blue Spruce is most affected by this fungal disease, White Spruce and Norway Spruce may also be infected.

rhizo needlecast

We treat a lot of Blue Spruce evergreens on our plant health care route, and our treatment protocol involves a series of fungicides applications for a few years in a row. Three fungicide applications every year are recommended a month apart, starting at bud break to ensure proper coverage.

When deciding to treat your tree, it is wise to weigh the cost of treatment to the value of the tree. Is this an important tree to your landscape or is there something that might be more suited for the location? Treatment can take a few years to eradicate the disease, and even then, the climate of our seasons can always bring in new fungal bodies. If the tree is already severely affected there may not be much we can do to save it. Treatment is best if started early in the disease cycle.

Blue Spruces are beautiful trees and might be worth investing in on your property. We recommend speaking with your arborist about a plan to protect the trees on your property and the investment you have in your landscape. We’re local arborists – and we’re here to help. For more information – contact your tree care experts here at Cherokee Tree Care.