Example of needle cast

What’s Wrong with My Spruce: Identifying Needle Cast

The changing seasons in our Virginia, Maryland, and DC area bring different characteristics to our landscape. Winter is the time for our evergreen trees to shine. Afterall, when others have lost their leaves, these needle-baring trees provide a lush green pop of color to our scenery. If you are noticing that your spruce trees are starting to look less then healthy, needle cast may be to blame.


What is needle cast?

Have you ever seen a tree, such as spruce, with healthy looking needles at the tips of the branches, but no needles at all as you look further down the branch? This fungal disease, generically referred to as needle cast causes spruce trees to lose their older needles. It gives the tree the appearance that it’s dying.

What trees are affected by need cast?

  • Colorado Blue Spruce
  • White Spruce
  • Norway Spruce

How do I know if my spruce trees are infected?

Check the needles on your trees. Infected needles often show symptoms of yellow mottling and progressively turn bright yellow, purplish-pink, and finally brown. As the fungus matures, needles will prematurely “cast off”. Often the damage starts on lower branches and move upward. Also, you will notice infected trees to have less needles near the trunk.

What causes needle cast?

Rhizosphaera needle cast is caused by a group of fungi in the genus Rhizosphaera. This fungus survives winter and can spread during rain. In fact, rainy weather provides the right conditions for this disease and many others. This fungus can survive on living and recently killed needles. Usually needles are infected when they are young and still growing.

What can I do?

When it comes to tree care and disease it’s best to call a professional. If you are concerned with the health of your treescape, give us a call. Let one of our ISA certified arborists evaluate your trees and recommend the best course of action for each tree. Our professional crews can perform the work safely and efficiently.

Get a Quote

Looking for expert tree care? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch!

Looking for expert tree care?