By B. Rosie Lerner
Twenty years ago, I planted six Norway spruce trees around the house. Now they are 45- to 50-feet tall and started to lose needles back in November 2020 by the hundreds. Could it be a disease or squirrels are chewing them off to make a nest? Do Norway spruce have a known lifespan? The samples appear normal, not brown or dried out. There are plenty of seed cones around the tree. I’ve never had this many needles fall off in one season.
Eugene Pigula, DeMotte, Indiana
Norway spruce can be very long lived, but up to 35 years or so might be more expected in many urban/suburban landscapes in Indiana. It is difficult to assess why the needles are dropping just based on these photos. If it is primarily the older, interior needles dropping, that could just be normal shedding of older needles. All evergreens shed some of their needles every year, based on the age of the needle. In the case of Norway spruce, needles live for 2-3 years depending on environmental conditions. Stressful conditions such as heat and drought and poor soil drainage can hasten needle drop. Or if the plant put on a lot of needle growth 2-3 years ago, this could just be a large amount of normal needle drop. But, if it’s the younger needles at the tips of the branches that are dropping, then there could be a more serious problem.
Your local Jasper County office of Purdue Extension can help you assess your tree’s health. (https://extension.purdue.edu/Jasper/about.) Another option would be to submit your plant for diagnosis to the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at the West Lafayette campus. Information on how to submit a sample can be found at https://ag.purdue.edu/btny/ppdl/Pages/digitalimages.aspx and https://ag.purdue.edu/btny/ppdl/Documents/Downloadable%20image%20guides/Tree%20Pictures%20for%20Diagnosis_s.pdf.
Tipmont REMC consumer B. ROSIE LERNER is a longtime Indiana Connection contributer who recently retired as Purdue Extension’s consumer horticulturist. Questions about gardening issues may be sent to “Ask Rosie,” Indiana Connection, 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600, Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606, or use the form at IndianaConnection.org.