State forestry officials want people to know why many white pines in Maine, and throughout the Northeast, have turned yellow and brown and lost a lot of needles over the past two to three weeks.
The culprit is White Pine Needle Disease, which is caused by one of several needle fungi. Maine Forest Service Pathologist Bill Ostrofky says needles that come out in early June are infected, but don't drop off until the next growing season.
"Normally the white pine will hold its needles for two years, and we're losing all the needles, one-year-old needles, after only one year," he says.
Ostrofky says scientists have been following the epidemic for eight years and are now seeing mortality among the very weakest trees.
"We suspect that most of the trees will survive," he says. "And with any luck, we'll get a break in the weather pattern, or whatever it is, that has triggered this."
Foresters are advising landowners to consult with a professional before conducting thinning operations.