Pine Forest Homeowners Association

Forest Health Consult Spring 2017
As reported by Anne Fox in the July 2017 Pine Cone Review

Board members Jim Wurzel and Heather Dean recently consulted with Judy Swank, a local forester, who also pulled in Connie Mehmel, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist based in Wenatchee. After receiving a tour of our project, these professionals shared the following insights.
• As we’ve heard many times before, our trees are way too dense for their or our own good. We should have more like 25-35 trees per acre than the order of magnitude or more that we have in much of the neighborhood.

• Besides the challenges that come with being too close together, the trees in some parts of Pine Forest are also struggling from being at the edge of their tolerance in terms of dryness of habitat. Apparently, when you see species like arrowleaf, buckwheat, and bitterbrush, you should see very few trees. Ours most likely got established at their greater numbers during a wetter time.

• As we know, the summers of 2014 through 2016 were all rather droughty. That has contributed to the stress of overcrowding and drier-than- previous habitat conditions, substantially increasing the vulnerability of our trees.

•The stress to trees that survived the 2015 Twisp River fire has likely increased the concentration of a variety of insects and diseases in proximity to Pine Forest.

Some good news:

• Connie sees very little impending mortality in Pine Forest due to pine bark beetle. That takes off a bit of pressure to get the trees out ASAP before they become worthless to us. The telltale signs of pine bark beetle infestation are death from the top down and/or sudden death of concentrated sections of needles all at once, plus yellow rubber/plastic-looking “chimneys” of pitch on the trunks of infested trees, marking where the beetles entered. On the latter, where there is active infestation, you will see “frass,” a powdery waste product, at the entrance to the chimney.

• In contrast, the browning of a number of our pines is fairly uniform across the tree and the affected trees seem not to have the pitch chimneys. Connie said they are seeing this affliction all over eastern Washington and are unsure what exactly is behind it, although they suspect one or more needle diseases, combined with other stressors. Needle disease is typically not fatal, although there’s no guarantee, particularly with the other stressors. Connie sent some literature on needle disease and other stressors (links in the Resources section below).

• The small-tree mortality that we see all over Pine Forest appears mostly to be the result of drought rather than some kind of infestation or disease. (Small trees have less extensive root systems.)

• The small-tree mortality that we see all over Pine Forest appears mostly to be the result of drought rather than some kind of infestation or disease. (Small trees have less extensive root systems.) In contrast, the browning of a number of our pines is fairly uniform across the tree and the affected trees seem not to have the pitch chimneys. Connie said they are seeing this affliction all over eastern Washington and are unsure what exactly is behind it, although they suspect one or more needle diseases, combined with other stressors. Needle disease is typically not fatal, although there’s no guarantee, particularly with the other stressors. Connie sent some literature on needle disease and other stressors (links in the Resources section below). In contrast, the browning of a number of our pines is fairly uniform across the tree and the affected trees seem not to have the pitch chimneys. Connie said they are seeing this affliction all over eastern Washington and are unsure what exactly is behind it, although they suspect one or more needle diseases, combined with other stressors. Needle disease is typically not fatal, although there’s no guarantee, particularly with the other stressors. Connie sent some literature on needle disease and other stressors (links in the Resources section below). do have some Douglas fir mortality due to tussock moth (again, that manifests from the top down), but not too bad.

• We also came across something neither Connie nor Judy had seen before. Connie took samples back for examination by two pathologists and another entomologist, none of whom could find any causation. Whatever the disease may be it is resulting in fir death along Longleaf. It is manifesting as what appears to be clumping of the needles at the tips of the branches into a hard mass. It seems to be confined to the south part of the neighborhood, and, after consulting some more forest professionals, Judy advised that the leading suspect at this point is the fire retardant that saved us from the 2015 Twisp River fire and probably got blown a bit northward.

• Finally, Connie very much wanted us to remind owners that it’s asking for trouble to stack fresh firewood against living trees. Not only is it not Firewise, but it also invites insects that the firewood attracts to move into the neighboring tree(s).

PDF Resources

Elytroderma Needle Cast Disease 1971
Elytroderma Needle Cast Disease 2011
Drought Stress in Conifers
Needle Discoloration on Ponderosa Pine
Pine Engraver Beetle Info
Ponderosa Pine Needle Symptoms