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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cotton on New Growth of Pine Normal

picture of  "cotton" on pine submitted
Q. I was hoping you could identify what is happening on our Mondale pines. We live on Mt. Charleston at 5000 feet and after the forest fire and flood we planted 7 Modale pines along our property. They made it through the 1st summer and winter and have grown nicely but in the last month or so have developed a cotton on the tips of the limbs.  We water about 9 gallons per tree about 3 to 4 times a week. They are not dropping any needles but we would rather be proactive than reactive and we do not know if this is normal growth behavior 

A. This cotton on the end of the limbs is the natural color of the buds on the ends of shoots and branches as they expand into new growth.

            The white color or cotton as you call it are the sheaths that enclose the bottom of the new needles as they expand. The buds first expand and grow longer and wider. Depending on the health of the tree, this expansion can be fairly short, an inch to an inch and a half or quite long, perhaps up to 4 inches.

In this stage they are called "candles" because they resemble a small thin candle at the end of the branch. Pines are somewhat unique in that all of the needles of the new growth are contained in this candle.  Pine tree candlesbefore they expand
The amount of new growth and how dense the canopy is can be managed by breaking these candles with your fingers. Do not cut them or you will damage the needles emerging from the candle.
Pine candle before it expands

If you want to keep the tree smaller, you would break about half of the candle off when it emerges. This removes half of the new growth that can develop and causes more side branching to occur, thus making the canopy more  dense

This is a handy management tool if you are using these trees for screening or windbreaks. So what I'm saying is not to be alarmed, this is a normal for this tree.


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