FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — When searching for a Christmas tree to bring home this year, you may face a decline in spruce trees across Indiana as a sickness is causing them to lose their glow.
Spruce trees across the Midwest are facing a disease that is easy to spot for most looking for a full tree to bring into their home this holiday season, as spruce trees are thinning out and slowly dying.
So what is causing this great decline in the Indiana spruce population?
The key symptom for spruce decline, according to Jeff Burbrink, an Extension Educator for Agriculture & Natural Resources at Purdue University, is branch dieback. Branch dieback, which usually begins on the lower limbs of the tree, causes needles to drop, making the tree appear very thin. In most cases, this causes homeowners to remove the trees from their properties.
This key symptom is linked to multiple diseases plaguing the Midwest spruce population.
Needlecast is a disease plaguing the trees, as it is a fungus that attacks the current year’s needles but they do not fall off until the next year. In the end, the result is an overlay of live needles with dead needles inside.
Another disease commonly found is tip blight. This affects new growth on the tree, causing it to die based on the pattern of the growth. Phomopsis and diplodia tip blight are the most common examples in Indiana.
Finally, another impactful disease for Indiana is cytospora canker, which can infect either branches or the main trunk of the tree. Cankers are sunken or ridged areas that drip resin. As these cankers grow, they impact the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients, causing the branches to die.
What can be done to help Indiana’s spruce tree population?
According to a Michigan State University article, your best bet to fight the diseases plaguing the spruce are fungicides. Those fungicides can help in preventing and controlling the disease and can only protect new growth but will take two to three years of yearly application. The university suggests removing affected branches as that will improve the tree’s appearance and slow the spread of disease.
Burbrink said overall the blue spruce population does not look hopeful for our region, even with fungicide treatment as Indiana conditions are not favorable for this tree type, and most homeowners often catch the disease too late into progression to reverse damage.
Burbrink suggests alternatives to the blue spruce which include the Concolor Fir, Dawn Redwood, Serbian Spruce, Swiss Stone Pine, Korean Pine and Bald Cyprus. Burbrink noted that all trees have a preferred set of conditions, so it’s best to explore options and find a tree that fits soil type and conditions.