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smithbr's picture
White Spruce increased die-off?


Has anyone else noted a significant increase in the yearly die-off of white spruce on their properties?  Talking with a local harvester recently, we agreed that over the last five years we've both seen this happening, on lands we've known all our lives.  The symptom is branch death progressively from bottom to top over a multi-year period.  When felled, the trees suffer from distinct root-rot, and usually the bottom log is at least partially worthless.  If left standing, the trees generally fall over, snapping just above ground level, and the stump is already in advanced decay.  Just curious if others are seeing this.  We're in the upper Ottawa Valley, Ontario, but I'm wondering if it's more regional than local.



Dewchie's picture

Blair, I have not seen that here, but I am not sure of the difference between spruces yet. I thought it was blue spruce, when I googled, that I have around here.

David_B's picture

Has it been abornomally wet/moist air the past several years?  There is a fungus that will cause this.  I've cut many of the older lower branches on some white spruce that were exhibiting this behavior and it appears to have helped. 

smithbr's picture

I wouldn't say the last few years have been abnormally wet.  2012 was just the opposite, with three months with less than a cupful of water from the sky, then a normal fall.  It could be stress from that year, I guess.

wayne busse
wayne busse's picture

Here in Indiana, 2007 was very dry ,and for three years after I lost hundreds of scotch and white pine. Once all the stressed trees were dead the die-off stopped and haven't lost a tree in three years.

smithbr's picture

Thanks, Wayne, I guess time will tell.  In the meantime my next two summers will be filled with felling spruce and producing lumber, if I don't want to burn the stuff.


glachap's picture

smithbr.....I know exactly what you're talking about....I have 160 acres in St. Charles, Ontario...which is half-way between Sudbury and North Bay......most of the White Spruce around here suffer from what you have described.....the needles turn brown and branches die from the bottom progressing towards the top of the the branches die and dry out, green lichen starts to take over, covering the branches giving the tree a greenish-gray look as it dies.....what I have been doing is cutting down the trees that are affected but not to the point where it is makes me sad to have to cut these down as they would have otherwise a lot of growing to do....I would not otherwise be using them.....what is even sadder is all the trees that have died and are completely useless for anything but adding to the forest floor....what is odd is that neighbouring White Pines, Red Pines and Jack Pines are not affected. Not sure what the disease is but I read somewhere that it could something called "needle rust" or even Spruce Budworm....these dying/dead White Spruces appear in long tracts while while driving down the highway also.....It's really decimating our Spruce forests....very disheartening!

Bill MacLellan
Bill MacLellan's picture

glachap sounds like you are battling spruce bud worm, here is a page you can google  Spruce budworm | . we have battled several outbreaks of the little pest here in the Maritimes over the years. Some areas were wiped out by them. From what I understand they only like spruce and fir so that explains the other species not being affected.

glachap's picture

Thanks Bill.......I'll check out the link you you know if any measures were taken in the Maritimes to fight the little critters and were they successful?....Gary

smithbr's picture

I remember huge protests about budworm spraying campaigns in New Brunswick, and to a lesser extent Ontario - but that was years ago.  No idea what they're doing now.  However, I'm not convinced that is the problem.  I'll consult a couple of former Forestry Institute employees, maybe they'll know.  All I know is, looking at our forest right now, I can identify about 30% that I would say will go in the next two years.  And I'm awful short on sawing time this coming year.

Nature rules.


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