Fall Is for Pines, Too


pine needles in fall

For most New Hampshire residents, fall foliage season – and the accompanying leaf drop – is a welcomed and predictable seasonal event.  After a brilliant display of color, we dutifully break out our rakes to clear lawns of maple, birch, ash, oak, and beech leaves.  However, many homeowners become alarmed when a thick layer of golden-colored needles from their eastern white pines begin to blanket roofs and driveways.  Every autumn, UNH Extension Foresters are asked, “What’s wrong with my pine trees?”  The answer is probably, “Nothing at all.” 

Seasonal needle drop is a normal part of an evergreen, or coniferous, tree’s life cycle.  In Eastern white pine, needles are typically retained for 2, and sometimes 3, years before changing color and dropping from the tree.  Pitch pine usually retains needles for 2 years.  Red pine needles might last for 4 or 5 years.  Interestingly, New Hampshire’s native Eastern larch, or tamarack, is a deciduous conifer and loses all its needles each year.

On the other hand, if you notice pine needles browning and dropping prematurely in spring or summer, there may be an issue with the tree such as needle blight fungi or drought stress.  Contact your County Forester if you need help diagnosing the problem.

browning pine needles on tree
brown pine needles on ground

Author(s)

Gregory Jordan
Forestry Field Specialist
Assoc Field Specialist
Phone: (603)679-5616
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824
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