Some Common Pine Diseases in North Carolina
L. F. Grand, Plant Pathology
C. S. Hodges, Professor Emeritus
R. K. Jones, Professor Emeritus

Pine trees are used extensively across North Carolina to landscape homes, businesses and parks, and they make up a considerable proportion of our forests. Pines are generally free of serious disease problems. This information note is intended to be used as an aid in identifying and controlling the more common pine diseases. The control measures suggested may not be economically practical in large plantings or forests.

In addition to the specific recommendations made for control of each disease listed in the table, the following two general recommendations will help reduce the probability of serious disease problems:

Proper species selection. Selecting a pine species well adapted to the planting location often determines the fate of the trees. White pine, for example, is well adapted to the mountains, but does not generally grow well in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Several pine diseases are restricted to, or are more severe, in certain areas of the state. In these areas non-susceptible pine species should be planted where possible. For example, shortleaf pine should not be planted on shallow, infertile areas of the Piedmont because of little leaf disease.

Purchase disease-free plants. Diseases such as fusiform and pine-oak gall rusts cause swollen galls on infected seedlings. Foliage diseases such as brown spot needle blight and needle cast are often present on young plants. When purchasing seedlings or nursery plants, examine them carefully for the presence of diseases.

Pine Species
Occurence in North Carolina
Control Suggestions
All species, especially slash, loblolly, and white Annosus root and butt rot (Heterobasidion annosum) Thin foliage in crown; red needles on dead trees; diseased trees often occurring in circular areas around cut stump; stringy root rot; tree may die while standing or blow down while still alive; fungus fruiting bodies on tree near soil line, often concealed by litter layer. Throughout the state, but more damaging on light sandy soils in the coastal plain Gradually or rapidly kills trees. On white pine may cause butt rot before tree dies. When thinning, treat freshly-cut stump surfaces with dry granular borax; remove infected or dead trees. Do not plant another pine within 20 feet of tree that died of annosus root rot. Plant hardwood trees.

Annosus root and butt rot: (left) infected tree displaying a sparse canopy; (center) fruiting bodies
or basidiocarps of the fungus; (right) Old stump with fruiting bodies at the base.
Shortleaf Littleleaf disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi) Needles smaller than normal, yellow-green in color; sparse crown, usually affects trees 20 years old or older; infected trees usually occur in groups and die in 1-6 years, infected trees often produce numerous small cones. Piedmont on shallow, poorly drained, infertile soils Gradual decline and death of trees. Plant Virginia or loblolly pine which are more resistant. Nitrogen fertilization will help if disease has not progressed too far.

Littleleaf disease: (1) overall sparse appearance of tree; (2) atrophy, a symptom of shortened internodes, chlorosis, stunted needles and tufted appearance; (3) reduced cone size; (4) healthy seedling on left, diseased seedling on right.
(Photographs courtesy of L. Grand)
Most species Needle cast (Ploioderma lethale) Previous years needles turn brown from tip to base in spring; infected needles shed later in year, leaving only new growth; most commonly occurs on lower crown. Throughout North Carolina May reduce growth of young trees, little or no damage to older trees. Usually none is necessary. Removing fallen needles may reduce inoculum source. Fertilize defoliated trees.
Most species Needle rust (Coleosporium spp.) From a distance tree may have a white or yellow cast. Needles have small, delicate white blisters containing masses of orange spores. Heavily infected needles may die, turn brown and drop off. Throughout North Carolina Usually little or none. Usually none is necessary.

Needle rust: (left, center) Spermagonia and aecia produced on pine, causing a white or yellow cast. (right) Aeciospores are wind dispersed to Aster and Solidago species, which are alternate hosts for the fungus. (Photographs courtesy of L. Grand)
Loblolly and slash Fusiform rust (Cronartium quercuum f. sp. fusiforme) Elongated swollen galls on trunk or branches; orange, powdery spore masses on surface of gall in spring. Occurs in eastern and central North Carolina; rare in mountains Trunk galls on young trees may result in death; or tree may become bushy and stunted, tree often breaks over at gall. Gall on branch may girdle and kill branch or may progress into main trunk with resultant damage as above. Plant species other than loblolly or slash; use disease-free plants. If gall occurs on main trunk of young tree, cut and remove tree. Galls occurring on branch 8-12 inches from trunk can be pruned with little chance of rust reaching trunk.

Fusiform rust: (left) canker formed on tree trunk; (center) aecia (spores) form as orange blisters on the canker; (right) uredinia form on the underside of the alternate host oak. (Photographs courtesy of L. Grand)
Virginia and shortleaf Pine-oak gall rust (Cronartium quercuum f. sp. quercuum) Round swollen galls on trunk or branches; orange, powdery spore masses on surface of gall in spring. Throughout North Carolina Same as for fusiform rust. Same as for fusiform rust except plant species other than Virginia or shortleaf.
Pine-oak gall rust: Globose gall on shortleaf pine. (Photograph courtesy of L. Grand)
White Blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) Slightly swollen areas on trunks or branches; second-year cankers slightly sunken; pitch flow from canker area; whitish blisters contain yellow-orange spore masses in early summer. Occurs at higher elevations in mountains Kills individual branches or entire tree if occurs on trunk in lower crown. Do not plant white pine near currents (Ribes spp.); use disease-free plants, plant other pine species.

Blister rust: (1,2) aecia form on the trunk and branches of tree; (3) canker with pitch flow; (4) uredinia and urediniospores develop on alternate host Ribes sp. (Photographs courtesy of L. Grand)
White Ozone damage Bright red tips on new needles. In mountains May affect all new growth on tree; little or no long-term damage. No control known, but individual trees vary in susceptibility.
Ozone damage on white pine (Photograph courtesy of A. Heagle)
Scots, Japanese black, Austrian Pine wood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilis) General wilting of needles, followed by yellowing, browning and finally death of the tree, usually within 30-90 days after onset of symptoms. The nematodes are spread from tree to tree by pine sawyers (Monochamus spp.). Confirmed diagnosis can only be made by removing the nematodes from symptomatic branches or increment borings from the trunk in the laboratory. Most common in eastern North Carolina on Japanese black pine Usually fatal. Quickly remove and destroy diseased trees. Native pines are more resistant.
White Needle blight (Bifusella linearis) Two- and three-year old needles die back from the tip, leaving a green base. The disease is easily recognized by the presence of long, narrow black fruiting bodies produced on the lower surface of dead needles. In mountains Mostly an aesthetic problem. No fungicides are registered for the control of this disease.
Primarily longleaf and Japanese black Brown spot needle blight (Mycosphaerella dearnessii; syn. Schirrhia acicola) Symptoms appear as spots that often enlarge to bands that encircle the needles, causing death of the needle beyond the bands. Spots may appear at any time of the year, but usually from May to October. Longleaf seedlings still in the "grass stage" are especially susceptible. Mostly central and eastern North Carolina Repeated infections may delay height growth on longleaf seedlings. Damage usually minor on older plants of longleaf and Japanese black. Fungicide applications of Bordeaux mixture, maneb or chlorothalonil are effective in preventing infection. These fungicides are registered for use on longleaf, but not on Japanese black.

Brown spot needle blight: (left) needle death in the grass stage; (center) chlorotic and necrotic bands on needles;
(right) close up of the bands.
Virginia, slash, shortleaf, longleaf, pitch Pitch canker (Fusarium circinnatum; syn. Fusarium lateritium f. sp. pini) Heavy pitch flow on trunk from slightly sunken canker; wood behind canker pitch-soaked, bark retained on canker. Branch cankers common on Virginia and shortleaf pines in the mountains and piedmont. Throughout North Carolina Results in death of branches; trunk infections may kill tree. No known control; pruning infected branches may prevent fungus from reaching trunk.

Pitch canker: (1) tip dieback and needle necrosis; (2) canker with excessive pitch; (3) excessive pitch flow; (4) pitch-covered canker; (5) weakened area resulted in tree snap (photographs courtesy of Southeastern Forest Experimental Station)

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Recommendations of specific chemicals are based upon information on the manufacturer's label and performance in a limited number of trials. Because environmental conditions and methods of application by growers may vary widely, performance of the chemical will not always conform to the safety and pest control standards indicated by experimental data. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory agencies. Last printed 04/91

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
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Reformatted Nov. 2001 by A.V. Lemay