Hail from summer storms caused damage to pine trees in the Black Hills

Hail from summer storms caused damage to pine trees in the Black Hills
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 7:54 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Pine trees keep their needles for around three years before they turn brown and fall off so the tree can continue making new needles. While it’s normal for the needles to change color every couple years, when one side of a tree turns brown, that can result in some people asking more questions about the health of the tree.

Every year, the Black Hills turn from a natural dark green, to more yellow and red colors, but after a summer of rain storms, the colors have started to turn more brown on pine trees, creating some concern about what is really happening.

“What happens is when we get these big hail storms, the hail storms themselves physically damage the branches and twigs, and basically cut off the nutrients at some point and turn the needles brown,” said Kurt Allen, an entomologist for the U.S. Forest Service.

While the needles changing color is not a cause for concern right now, the damage done to the trees could have some adverse effects when spring rolls around.

“The biggest concern we would have is actually a fungal disease called diplodia. Depending on the weather next spring, can take advantage of, like I said the hail causes just a physical wound on the branch that opens it up. If we get the right weather conditions next spring, diplodia which is everywhere in the Black Hills, you can find it anywhere, it will get in and infect those wounds and can cause the branch tips to die back,” continued Allen.

Allen says brown needles are not uncommon, depending on what areas of the Hills get hailed on, but the trees should return to their normal green color within a year.