Old Blue Spruce Tree Is Dying

By Ellen Brown


My beautiful 50+ year old blue spruce is dying from the top. It's over 50 feet high and it's slowly turning brown and dead from the top down. Is this a natural death? It's about 10 feet from my neighbors' driveway and they use a lot of lawn and other chemicals and leave their trucks idling in the driveway. One of my lilac bushes nearby has already died, from the exhaust fumes, I suspect. Help, please.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Shirley from Kenosha County, WI


According to the University of Minnesota Extension Agency, when grown in our Minnesota (zones 3 and 4), the Colorado blue spruce " grows fast, lives hard and dies young" (at the ripe old age of 30). If yours tree is 50+ years old, I would say it has lived a wonderfully full life. Still, you're in zone 5 (like parts of Colorado), so it's possible that your tree could expect to enjoy a longer lifespan (up to 200 years in some cases). Your description of needle death from the top down doesn't sound like any blue spruce diseases I'm familiar with.

That said, there is some new mystery disease showing up in black, blue and white spruce trees across Minnesota and Wisconsin this year. Needle drop and chlorosis (lightened needle color) are two of its symptoms, but I'm unclear as to whether of not the disease progresses from the bottom of the tree to the top (as happens in most cases), or if the reverse is true. You might want to take a picture, and if possible snip off a portion of a dying branch and submit it to the University of Wisconsin Extension Agency for testing. uwex.edu


Like animals, all trees do eventually grow old and die. As they get older, they become more susceptible to storms, disease and pests, which ultimately take their toll. Unlike animals, vital functions are not controlled by a central nervous system. Instead, vital functions in trees are decentralized. This means that a large part of the tree can die off (and routinely it does), without the entire tree being killed off.

My best advice is to call in a professional arborist. Contact your country extension agency for recommendations.

Good luck!

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com



Old Blue Spruce Tree Is Dying

Go to your garden center and buy some Miracle-Gro. We had a huge arborvitae that had leaves that turned brown from using too much rock salt. Follow the directions on the box and hopefully your tree will be revived. Lots of luck.

sewingmamma (09/25/2006)

By sewingmamma

Old Blue Spruce Tree Is Dying

Thanks very much, Ellen. This tree has a lot of sentimental as well as environmental value to me. I'm relieved to know that this might not kill the whole tree, but I can see it progressing down the trunk. Right now it's gone about 10 feet down from the top. I'll call the extension office, but I won't be able to get a sample from 40 feet up. I really appreciate your expert advice. (12/08/2006)

By Jantoo


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