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Sunday January 21, 2018
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Spruce Trees Are Suffering



When I cleaned the deck, the cause of the crunchiness and the brighter sun stunned me: most of the needles were no longer on four spruce trees. They were on the deck, on its tables and chairs, and on the roof and its gutters. The stiff brown needles, tracked in by people and cats, pricked bare feet throughout the house. The trees had been green a few months earlier. Now the needles that hadn't fallen were brown.

Last year, I took a garden walk in Kent County led by MSU Extension educator Bob Bricault. He'd mentioned that spruce trees, especially the desirable Colorado blue spruce (picea pungens), were not doing well in Michigan. Now I went to the MSU website to learn more. Documents there explained that a fungus, rhizosphaera kalkhoffii, causes needle cast in spruce trees, but noted that other diseases can also afflict these beautiful conifers. Then I called Bricault.

"People love the blue spruce, but they really shouldn't plant it," he said. "The more we plant, the more possibilities for disease. The spruce decline is all over the state the last ten years." He added that needle cast can be slowed or prevented with the correct fungicidal spray.


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