Pathogens Cause Trees To Run Red in Spokane County

By Steve Jackson

In Riverside State Park, you can’t help but notice that there seems to be lots of what appear to be dying Ponderosa pines this year. Trees that look like all the needles are turning red.

A clump of red pines in Nine Mile Falls, northwest of Spokane. Photo by Steve Jackson.Forester Guy Gifford of the Department of Natural Resources says he has seen this happen before, in five to seven year intervals. The trees are being hit by fungal or insect related pathogens that are related to weather patterns. He says "what these pathogens like are the cool wet springs we have seen for several years running". Gifford says typically, "after the weather we had last year, I’ll start getting calls about dying forests, my trees are dying... We see the tips are still green, the needles are more red than people are seeing, and we find these foliar pathogens.”
Gifford says the condition seems to be widespread around the county right now. But, he says if you see lots of red Ponderosas on your property, it probably doesn’t mean your trees are doomed.  

Gifford: "Will it kill trees? Generally we do not consider this a tree killer. Will it stress trees? Yes, and generally if a tree gets hit by this three to five years in a row, you can expect some tree growth loss, and generally some forest health condition loss, but we generally don’t consider it a tree killer."

Gifford says the red trees can often appear in specific groups, while other trees nearby seem perfectly normal. He says that’s often because of specific wind patterns in forested areas that allow well-ventilated trees to escape the pathogens.

Photo: A clump of red pines in Nine Mile Falls, northwest of Spokane. Photo by Steve Jackson.
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