I have a Vanderwolf pine tree, Pinus flexilus 'Vanderwolfs'. About a couple of weeks ago some of the needles started turning brown. Didn't pay too much attention, but then I noticed it was getting worse. Most of the needles are brown but still attached. They don't fall off when slightly pulled on. enter image description here

I looked up the symptoms and the best issue I could come up with was root rot.

I'd like to know, based on my above description, is this a root rot? If so, how can I treat it?

2 Answers 2


I saw a Pinus flexilis that looked just like this about 7 years ago. The cause wasn't root rot but incorrect planting - it was planted about 4-6 inches too deep. This was embarrassing because the nursery that I worked at was the one that had planted it. Oops. The plant had been in the ground 4 years, I think.

The tree looked great that spring, but crashed hard by July. It's demise was fairly sudden. I can't tell from your photo, but if the soil or mulch is significantly covering the root flare (such as it is on a pine), then that was the cause. Since this is an older question, my guess is that you've removed it by now.

  • I posted an answer with I found the the actions I took. Very interesting that being planted that much deeper could cause it to die. Does this apply to young or small trees? This tree was about 6 feet tall when I planted it and did well for about 2 years.
    – slybloty
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 22:40
  • 1
    Sometimes, trees are planted at the proper depth and then sink because the hole was dug too deeply and the loose soil at the bottom compressed. In other cases, trees are mulched incorrectly - most noticeable when the mulch looks like a volcano with a tree sticking out of the crater. This applies to all trees, regardless of age, although some species are more susceptible to ill effects than others. Here's link from the Morton Arbetum that gives more details: Morton Arb Advice.
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:58
  • Interesting about the pine scale - I hope your treatment works. If it does, you might be able to remove the excess soil and hope for the best.
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 0:00

I took a branch sample to the local nursery and they found some sort of a pine needle scale inside its needles. Unfortunately, by the time I got to it and applied the treatment it was a bit late, therefore the whole tree is now brown.
Some branches are still limber and I found some green needles. This gave me hope, so I haven't removed the tree as of yet. I'll wait until spring time to see if it comes back.

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