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Dates to remember

Oct. 1: Parents Forever, Mandan, 5-9 p.m.

Oct. 4: Stepping On fall prevention seven-week series, 1-3 p.m.

Oct. 8: Chef for a Day Grill-Off, Bismarck, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Oct. 9: Annie’s Project, Flasher

Oct. 12: 4-H Recognition Night, Mandan, 6 p.m.

Oct. 17: Coffee Time: Nutrition Facts about Coffee, Morton Mandan Public Library, 7 p.m.

As fall arrives and the temperatures continue to drop, the needles on evergreens may drop, too. It is usually nothing to worry about and in the piece below, Joseph Zeleznik, NDSU Extension forester, tells us why.

During autumn, deciduous trees like green ash and linden change color and lose their leaves. This is normal and expected. It happens every year and people are used to it. When needles of evergreen trees turn brown and die, it’s definitely unexpected, but not necessarily abnormal.

There are several species of evergreens, or conifers, frequently grown in North Dakota. Pines and spruces are most common. Pines have relatively long needles (2-9 inches) that are held in clusters called fascicles. Scotch pine trees have two needles per fascicle, about 2-4 inches long, and they are usually twisted around each other. Needles of ponderosa pine are in bundles of two or three (usually three) and are 4-9 inches long. These needles live for two to seven years, then die and drop during the fall. These are the older needles toward the center of the tree.

Another common group of conifers is the spruces — Colorado blue spruce and Black Hills spruce. These trees have shorter needles, about ¾- to 1-inch long, and they are attached to the stem individually, not in bundles. Blue spruce needles are more pointy, or sharper, than those of Black Hills spruce. Spruce needles usually live longer than those of pines, and may persist for up to 10 years. Just like pines, the needles that are older and more shaded will turn brown and drop during autumn.

So some needle drop by conifers during the fall is normal. The exception to this rule occurs with larch trees (also called tamarack). Larch trees lose all their needles, every year. They are deciduous “evergreens.” Larch needles are 1-2 inches long and borne in clusters on short shoots, and individually on long shoots. They are very soft. Some larch trees are native to the swamps and bogs of northern Minnesota. A common larch in North Dakota is the Siberian larch, which can tolerate the severe winters. Larch needles often turn a bright yellow color and in the bogs provide a golden rain during autumn.

Evergreen needles don’t last forever. Some needle loss toward the center of the tree, during the autumn, is normal. Needle loss at other times of the year is not normal and may be due to an insect or fungal pest or is the result of severe environmental stress.

Enjoy the colors this fall.

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Marissa Leier is the agriculture and natural resources Extension agent with NDSU Extension/Morton County. Leier has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Dakota State University.