I have a 17 foot white pine; about 6 feet on the top is mostly dead. Can I just cut that off to save the tree?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Wayne in Pennsylvania: I am going to assume by the size of your pine that it is an established planting. When we see a bit of die-back on the top branches coming out of the winter months, it is usually associated with winter damage caused by lack of moisture going into the winter months. If this is the case then these needles will drop and the pine should put on new growth to replace them. Unfortunately, your case seems a bit more severe than this and there may be something more serious going on since such a large portion of the tree is affected. White pines (Pinus strobus) are susceptible to white pine blister rust and white pine weevil. Both are pests that can be detrimental to the evergreen. Tip blight is also a possibility: you would see tiny fungal spores at the base of each individual needle. This is a more serious problem and should be positively identified. You really have to get up close to identify any insect or disease problems on any plant. Without seeing a sample of your tree I can only speculate, and the only way to find out for sure what is going on is to have someone take a closer look. You can contact a certified arborist in your area to have them come out and give you a positive diagnosis and treatment options. If you need local recommendations you can contact your County Extension Office.