© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

More Vermont pines are turning yellow and brown this year, but experts say damage isn't permanent

Aerial view on green pine forest illuminated by the morning sunlight.
borchee
/
iStockphoto
Aerial view on green pine forest illuminated by the morning sunlight.

White pine trees in Vermont are experiencing an uptick in needle damage caused by a group of fungi.

The fungi cause pine needles to turn brown and yellow and fall off prematurely. It’s causing some sections of forests to appear autumn-like this time of year.

Josh Halman, forest health program manager at the state Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, says it’s been something on a lot of people’s minds.

“We started getting calls about a week and a half ago,” Halman said. “And it was just the public noting as they're driving or in their backyard or in their forest, these yellow hillsides. It's pretty dramatic this year.”

The presence of the fungi is linked to last year’s wet spring and summer, including last July’s historic flooding.

“When we have wetter springs, wetter summers and longer growing seasons, we're starting to see it does set the stage for white pine needle damage to continue,” Halman said.

White pines are evergreen trees, but they shed their needles every couple of years. With the damage caused by the fungi, the department says affected trees will shed some needles early.

“When we have wetter springs, wetter summers and longer growing seasons, we're starting to see it does set the stage for white pine needle damage to continue."
Josh Halman, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation

While it may look alarming, state officials say white pine trees usually recover and are rarely killed by the damage.

“The trees are able to recover from this because the affected needles that folks are seeing are last year's needles,” Halman said.

He added that dropping needles early could affect white pine trees’ ability to take in nutrients and reduce their growth. That’s because white pines need their green needles for photosynthesis.

But, most trees that are affected by needle damage this year will continue to grow new and healthy needles.

“So the newly emerged needles are still green, and they're still photosynthesizing and able to produce the carbon and carbohydrates that the tree needs to survive,” he said.

White pine needle damage is fairly new to the state. Cases of prematurely browned trees started popping up about 15 years ago, and the department began monitoring the situation about five years later.

Halman says it’s not just Vemont that’s been affected. Wetter summers have brought an uptick in cases to most New England states, including New Hampshire.

The department says that if you have an affected white pine on your property, do not cut it down or treat it with chemicals.

Halman recommends pruning the affected areas to let oxygen in and reduce fungal pressure.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Samantha Watson is Vermont Public's news intern.