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England: Needle shedding makes ‘evergreen’ moniker a misnomer

POSTED: March 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Russell England/For The Times

Evergreens like the white pine Christmas tree keep their needles for more than a year, but they do drop them after they have grown new ones.

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Question: I bought a white pine Christmas tree and did not notice until I got it home that it has a lot of brown needles between the outside and the trunk. Did I get a bad tree?

Answer: If your white pine (Pinus strobus) has fresh looking green needles on the outside, then it is probably normal. It is very common for white pines to retain needles from the previous year’s growth well into late fall.

We normally think of trees being either deciduous (meaning they drop all their leaves in the fall and grow new ones the following year) or evergreen (meaning they retain their leaves through the winter, and thus stay green all the time). But just because an evergreen tree retains its leaves through the winter does not mean it never loses them.

Most evergreens simply retain their leaves for more than a year and, because they have grown fresh new leaves well before dropping their old ones, it is easy to think that they never lose their leaves.

This principle applies not just to pines or other “needle” trees.

If you have evergreen magnolias or hollies in your yard, you are probably reminded of their leaf drop every year because of the need to clean up after them.

You can use a leaf blower to good advantage to blow most of the brown leaves from the interior of your Christmas tree.

If the tree is not too large, a vigorous shaking or repeatedly pounding the butt of the tree on a hard surface will also do the job.

Russ England is a Master Gardener trained and certified in horticulture and related areas through by the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.



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