What’s happening to the Christmas trees? Trees that looked terrific 2 weeks ago are now partially or completely covered with orange or grey needles. I have heard mostly about firs and white spruce, but other species may also be affected. In some cases it is worse on the SW sides of trees but not always.
Calls are coming in to me, CCE and the diagnostic lab so this is quite widespread.
Our best answer, based on the rapidity with which symptoms showed up, the range of species and locations hit, and the wide area covered is that this is not a disease but desiccation – a form of winter injury. Winter injury with the harsh winters we’ve had recently makes more sense, but even in milder winters, trees that are losing water with no way of taking in more, or that went in to the winter water stressed, will show needle loss.
The first response is…wait. Wait to see if the new buds were affected or if the new growth looks good. The benefit of new needles may vary based on the size of the tree and the potential to get enough growth before harvest but waiting a few weeks will tell you what you have so you can decide what to do.
Feel free to call or email if you have questions, or send pictures if you wish.