Brown needles on Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by zinzara, Jun 3, 2004.

  1. zinzara

    zinzara Member

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    Hi everyone.

    I have a beautiful weeping blue atlas cedar in my garden in zone 8. It has quite a few brown needles on it (maybe 5% or the needles are brown). It's strange that the brown needles appear only sporadically. The needles on this tree grow in little "tufts" all along the branches, the dead needles will be one whole "tuft" on a branch with maybe 20 tufts that are uneffected. Also, the leader has brown needles for about 8 inches of its length. The tree is about 5.5 feet tall but has been trained in a zig-zag pattern so it may actually be quite old already. It has been in my garden only for 1.5 years.

    Could this be damage from the severe (for our zone) cold we had this past winter that is only showing up now (end of May, early June)? The tree has 3-5" new growth at the end of every branch so it seems fairly healthy, except the leader which has a good 8" of brown needles in a row, and the new growth on the leader (which is quite thin and fragile) is now very limp and looks like it's on it's way out.

    Any input would be appreciated.
     
  2. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi Zinzara:

    The "Blue Weeper" is the most susceptible to mite damage of
    any of the forms of Atlantic Cedar that I know of. In a Zone
    8 we have to be mindful of mites coming in from wind blown,
    fugitive dust or from specific plants that are hosts for a variety
    of mites. Almond trees are notorious hosts for mites for example.

    Generally, the best cultural suppressant is overhead watering.
    One thing I do all the time for any of our Spruce (Picea abies,
    Picea glauca, Picea omorika, Picea orientalis, Picea pungens)
    also grown in a Zone 8, is give them a shower of water at least
    once every two weeks once the temps get over 90° just to keep
    the mites off of them.

    I have Cedrus atlantica 'Brevifolia' as well as Cedrus atlantica
    'Glauca Aurea' growing at a 5,000' elevation and I can tell you
    it is not the cold that is causing the brown needles as I would
    see cold damage a lot with Glauca Aurea alone if that were true.

    It is possible that you have something else going on since I have
    no images to gauge things by but I know the plant and I know
    what damage the mites can do to us in a Zone 8. Another quick
    point is that when this Cedar is hit by mites the plant becomes
    less tolerable to high temps and the new growth can be severely
    affected in hot weather as a result.

    Jim
     
  3. zinzara

    zinzara Member

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    Thank you Mr. Shep

    Thank you so much for your help, it had occured to me that mites might be the cause. I will try your watering technique and hopefully that will make a difference.
     
  4. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi Zinzara:

    Public enemy number 1 on a Blue Weeper are borers
    that come in. They will make almost pin hole sized
    areas that will extrude a light amber colored ooze
    (sap) that will be visible if you look for it, usually just
    right above the graft. Overhead watering or a good
    shower will also suppress that insect as well but if
    enough borers hit the plant it will not survive for very
    long. Borers are the leading killer of the weeping Blue
    Atlas Cedars in a Zone 8.

    If the browning of the needles becomes worse, let
    me know.

    Jim
     
  5. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Is it possible that the pegs are broken from animals - like squirrels scampering around in the tree?

    Best wishes from "down under" in Oregon ( www.mdvaden.com ) from this Canadian born Oregonian.
     
  6. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi M. D. Vaden:

    < Is it possible that the pegs are broken from animals - like squirrels
    scampering around in the tree? >

    Yes, indeed that can happen. One gray squirrel in particular broke
    my central leader on my Cedrus atlantica 'Fastigiata'. At the time
    I saw it happen I was not happy but the squirrel ended up doing
    me a huge favor. Instead of having a tall "string bean" for a tree it
    later developed some girth around the middle and became a much
    more compact grower. I used to cringe every time I saw more than
    one squirrel in my 'Glauca Aurea' as I know some needles will be
    lost but the tree is large enough now to withstand the squirrels antic,
    most entertaining fun.

    Jim
     
  7. zinzara

    zinzara Member

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    Update on Blue Atlas Cedar

    Thank you all for your help.

    I am certain it is not squirrels doing the damage, as the tree doesn't lead anywhere and is too small to climb really. As far as borers are concerned, I have not been able to find any "pinholes" or sap oozing that would indicate their presence, I also have not found any mites (shaking the tree over white paper produced nothing but needles). I have taken to watering the tree hard from above at least twice a week. For a while, every day their seemed to be more and more brown needles, but now it's been a good 2 weeks since I've noticed any. I have removed all of the damaged needles. I had to cut the leader off as the whole thing was brown and limp, so I don't know what will happen with my tree now, though it seems healthy and all the new growth is growing along, turning blue (from its fresh green colour) and hardening off. It's seems ok. Overall, probably only 5% of the needles were affected.

    Incidentally, I was at Queen Elizabeth Park recently. They have a large, old, weeping blue atlas cedar in front of the restaurant there. It had exactly the same type of damage on it as mine (only much much worse).

    Thanks everyone for the help.
     
  8. douglas

    douglas Active Member 10 Years of Activity

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    hi gang sorry for butting in!

    I'm going to jump off the fence and asume that Zin is in the lower fraser valley somewere. (due to reference of QE park)

    All the previous suggestions are Great. I Would just like add a few things that we ran into in Abbotsford. The complex had 25 of these rascals. Unfortunatley due my lack of Knowledge at the time we lost 7 of them. Aprox 18 trees were exhibiting signs as previously discribed.

    Turned out we were dealing with a variety of probs

    1. mites
    2. Black scale
    The above 2 where harboured in a hedge and the wild red cedars

    3. Root weevil


    4. Birds (feeces)

    check out the life cycle of these critters

    Regards Doug
     
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi Zinzara:

    You've done what you needed to do to help this
    tree. Removal of the old, dead needles is quite
    important. The Mites that reside in the dead
    needles cannot be seen by the naked eye. The
    paper method may work on larger sized Mites
    but will not work on these as they do not brush
    off very easily. The shower method is the best
    solution that I've found. This time of year with
    the warmer temperatures I try to shower my
    Conifers at least once a week where I am.

    Hi Doug:

    Root Weevils can indeed be a problem where
    you are. Most of our Blue Weepers originated
    from Oregon and they can be laden with Click
    Beetle larvae. Every time I transplant an Oregon
    grown plant I see the critters. Are Root Weevils
    enough to kill the Cedar, no they aren't but in
    conjunction with a disease or a serious Scale
    outbreak they can help weaken the plant enough
    to kill it. I've read some reports of Root Weevils
    killing Conifers in the Pacific Northwest but I feel
    there was something else going on at the same time
    that led to the trees eventual death.

    We are too warm for Scale on our Blue Weepers
    here. I suppose that if we had Citrus around that
    had Black Scale that the Blue Weeper could
    become infested but I've not ever seen that happen
    as of yet. As a Citrus grower I know about Black
    Scale on Oranges. If we get any real Scale on our
    ornamentals it will be Oyster Scale and they will
    hide out in the shady parts of the tree or shrub,
    otherwise they will fry from the heat. We do get
    an occasional Cottony Cushion Scale outbreak that
    does invade some Conifers here though but usually
    only trees grown in dense shade.

    As far as bird feces that will depend on which
    birds, what they were feeding on and how much
    feces came in contact with the plant.

    Still, the number one killer for this Cedar for us
    here are Borers but a Mite infestation can weaken
    the tree enough for Borers to come in and kill it.
    Something else goes wrong before the Borers hit
    the trees is what I am saying.

    Jim
     
  10. zinzara

    zinzara Member

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    I posted this message last year when I had a minor problem with browning needles on my weeping blue atas cedar. We managed to control the problem with frequent overhead watering and the tree survived well. This spring it had a tonne of new growth and looked so well and healthy, unfortunately I was unable to watch it as closely as last year and in the space of a couple of weeks it went from green and healthy new growth the 70% dead needles and is now in a state of impending death I'm afraid.

    Does anyone have any idea if it's even worth trying to save, or if I should just say goodbye?
     
  11. jod

    jod New Member

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    Re: Thank you Mr. Shep

    I will try the watering method also.However,will water alone
    rid my trees of these mites??We are cooling down from 110
    degree temps.Please help.thx,jo
     
  12. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years of Activity

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    Hi Jo:

    No, the water alone will not keep the mites off your
    tree but in warm to hot weather the overhead watering
    or hose sprayings of "jets" of water can knock many
    mites off the tree that may not come back. I like to
    spray them with water for three reasons, one, to knock
    dust off the tree as the mites like to attach themselves
    to a dusty and/or a dry needle, two, I like the idea that
    if I liberate them, expose them into the hot air, then I
    can force a disruption of their life cycle and three, I
    do not like to use a chemical spray for mites in hot
    weather. If we use a spray such as Sevin or Diazinon
    one application in hot weather may not be adequate,
    no matter what kind of coverage we get with the spray.
    We may have to use a second spray about a week later
    for a heavy infestation of this insect. I use a chemical
    spray only if I have to.

    I suggest you read this IPM report on Spider Mites
    from the link below.

    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7405.html

    Jim
     
  13. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    There is also, in my understanding, a fungal disease that can cause this brown needle pattern on Cedrus atlantica. I can't remember what the specific disease is, but was told about by Don Howse, a conifer specialist in Oregon (past president of the ACS). He did say that the weeping blue atlas seemed to be the most susceptible to this infection.
     
  14. david2z4

    david2z4 Member

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    I have had almost the same problem as described. It started about 4 years ago and the tree is over 20 years old. Early spring about begining of May the tree has lots of new green growth. By the end of May 80% of the new growth turns brown in about a week and some of the brown spreads into the older growth. Weather is cool and rainy and damp at this time and past years I tried spraying with water but it does not help. I have been told this is not mites but a fungal disease. I was told you have to spray around early April or it is too late to stop that season. Every year my tree has gotten worse. I thought it was gone this year since mid May the tree looked great but withing one week it was over 50% brown.

    Just like the past years mid June as the area drys out, the new growth is coming back. I keep cutting out the dead area and removing the dead needle buildup but still have not had any luck controling the problem. :(
     
  15. bill721

    bill721 New Member

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    This seems to occur just as the new growth is emerging. I've been told that it's mites, but have never seen any. If allowed to continue there's lots of damage, but the tree recovers. I've found that spraying with Benomyl, 30cc powder to 3l. water, as soon as the new growth emerges seems to control the problem.
     

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