- Austrian Pine Tree
- The Nation’s Toughest Privacy Tree
- Planting & Care
- Austrian Pine
- Kansas Forest Service
- Why are my pine trees turning brown?
Austrian Pine Tree
The Nation’s Toughest Privacy Tree
Why Austrian Pine Trees?
The top choice for privacy trees in urban areas because it has a high tolerance for pollution and smog, the Austrian Pine. or ‘European Black Pine’, is a lush, solid living wall. When Austrian Pines are planted as standalone trees or in rows, they reach heights of 40 to 60 feet, growing large enough to block your neighbor’s view of your home while adding beauty to the landscape.
Even better? They’ve been tested in the country’s windiest areas, only to thrive. Austrian Pines will act as a wind screen to protect your home and other more sensitive plants from being hit by powerful winds. In fact, low-maintenance Austrian Pines grow where other trees can’t because they are drought tolerant and will adapt to a variety of poor soils, ranging from sandy soils to soils that are heavy in clay.
And with a high salt tolerance, they will flourish near the coast and in Northern areas, where salt sprays are commonly used in the winter. Even better is its history: A number of Austrian Pines were planted during the dust bowl because they are one of the only varieties that can handle the dry, windy conditions and nutrient-depleted soil.
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Planting & Care
1. Planting: Be sure that the planting location drains well and will receive full sun, which means at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. This particular pine can tolerate clay or sandy soils and overly alkaline pH levels but will do fine in ordinary soil as well.
Also, keep the pine’s maturity height and width in mind when it comes to selecting the location you’d like to plant. Avoid planting under power lines. Make your planting site hole twice the width of the root ball and just as deep.
Keep the tree straight and tamp the soil down as you fill the hole to prevent any air pockets from forming, and water the planting site when finished to settle the soil. Spread a nice layer of mulch around to keep grass and weeds at bay.
2. Watering: Like most other pines, the Austrian Pine will benefit from a weekly watering schedule until it has become more established. After it’s settled, the natural rainfall should be enough for the tree but during extended hot periods and prolonged drought, it may still need the occasional watering.
3. Pruning: During the dormancy period (late winter to early spring), be sure to remove any damaged, diseased or dead branches away from the tree. If you want to avoid pruning, just be sure to allot the tree the necessary space it needs as it matures.
4. Fertilizing: Austrian Pines do not typically require fertilizing, although they may benefit from some evergreen fertilizer spikes in the first few years. This will also enhance the growth rate of the tree a bit more.
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Although not native to Iowa, the Austrian pine (Pinus nigra), also called European black pine, has been planted quite widely in the state and especially in the western one-third where it has been planted both in farmstead windbreaks and as an ornamental. Due to many disease problems this species is no longer recommended in Iowa.
Hardiness: Zones 3b through 7 – Survives in zone 8, though rarely seen. Grows best in colder climates.
Austrian Pine Tree
Growth Rate: Medium (grows 35 to 50 feet after 20-30 years)
Mature Shape: Densely pyramidal when young. Becomes a large, flat-topped tree with a rough, short trunk and low, stout, spreading branches.
Height: 50 to 60 feet tall (some have been seen at
100 feet tall)
Width: 20 to 40 foot spread
Site Requirements: A very hardy tree that can survive city conditions better than most pines, but also enjoys the seaside environment and tolerates sandy soils well, too. Very tolerant of soils, if moist, but can stand some dryness and exposure. Resists heat and drought. Can succeed in fairly heavy clay.
Leaves: Stiff, sharp needles that occur in bundles of two
Flowering Dates: May – June
Seed Dispersal Dates: October – November
Seed Bearing Age: 15-40 Years
Seed Bearing Frequency: Every 2-5 years
The tree grows moderately fast, 75 to 100 feet tall when mature, and is hardy and is quite drought resistant. When grown in the open, it holds its branches quite close to the ground. The needlelike leaves occur in bundles of two, are 4 to 6 inches long, are stiff and sharp pointed, and of a light green color. The egg-shaped cones are 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 1-1/4 inches wide. The cones open during the late fall and early winter.
Austrian Pine Fruit – Photos by Paul Wray, Iowa State University
Diseases that Can Affect Austrian Pine
- Seasonal Needle Loss
- Diplodia Tip Blight and Canker
- Dothistroma Needle Blight
- Pine Wilt
- Sooty Mold
Insects that Can Affect Austrian Pine
- Zimmerman Pine Moth
- Pine Seed Bug
- Conifer Spider Mites
- Pine Bark Adelgid
- European Pine Sawfly
Austrian Pine Flowers – Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University
Austrian Pine Twigs – Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University
Austrian Pine Leaves, Photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University
Kansas Forest Service
Pinus nigra, or Austrian pine, is native to western Europe. Introduced to this country in the mid-1800’s, it has been planted extensively as an ornamental and conservation plant. In Kansas, Austrian pine grows to a height of 30 to 50 feet with a spread of 20 to 25 feet. On most soils, growth rate is usually 12 to 18 inches per year.
Leaves, Stems and Fruit
Young trees are pyramidal in shape, but become oval with age and, on some sites, flat topped. Noted for its dark, rich green foliage, Austrian pine provides a pleasant contrast with other plants. Austrian pine needles are stiff, usually straight, 2 to 4 inches long and are in groups of 2 . Needles persist 2 to 3 years. Fruit is a 2 1/2 to 3 inch long cone. The cone scales do not have prickles. The attractive bark has dark furrows with gray or gray-brown mottled ridges. Winter buds have a distinct silver color.
Windbreaks – Austrian pine’s symmetrical, stout, spreading branches serve well in windbreaks and living snow fences. It may be used in single or multi-row windbreaks and living snow fences. It is used primarily in windward (north or west) or central rows.
Wildlife Habitat – Several woodland species of birds utilize the seed, but it is not an important part of their diet. Its greatest asset is winter protection. Many kinds of wildlife find cover in Austrian pine branches.
Christmas Trees – Austrian pine may be used to produce Christmas trees. It provides some variety to the more popular Scotch pine and is more drought tolerant, but it tends to develop slower than Scotch pine. Typically Austrian pine is 8 to 10 feet tall before filling in to form a satisfactory Christmas tree.
Adaptation and Soil
Austrian pine had adapted statewide and grows best in deep, moist and well-drained soils, but it will grow on a wide variety of soils. Of the pines it is second only to ponderosa in drought tolerance and will grow successfully in fairly heavy clay.
Austrian pines are spaced 8 to 12 feet within a row and 12 to 18 feet between rows. Large, fast growing deciduous trees should be spaced far enough (20 to 24 feet) between rows to prevent shading pines.
Yugoslavia (Bosnia or Serbia) is the preferred source due to its resistance to Dothistroma needle blight. We intend to offer only the Yugoslavian source in the Conservation Tree Planting Program if we can obtain sufficient seed. Two-year-old, bare root and container grown seedlings are used in plantings. Both bare root and container grown seedlings are 6 to 12 inches tall. The container grown seedlings have intact root systems and usually have better survival and initial grow than the bare-root seedlings. Typically the bare-root seedlings grow very little in height until the third year while the container grown often put on some growth the first year. During this establishment period, supplemental watering and control of competing vegetation will aid survival.
Common insect pests include spider mites and pine needle scale. Common diseases include Dothistroma needle blight and Sphaeropsis (Diplodia) tip blight. Pine seedlings may be injured or killed by rabbits and may be protected by rabbit protective tubes.
Why are my pine trees turning brown?
As spring arrives, we begin to see browning of pine needles in plantations, landscapes and along roadsides. Depending on the type of pine tree, there are several common causes of needle browning in pines.
A crash course in pine ID
The most common pines in residential and commercial landscapes in Michigan are eastern white pine, Austrian pine and Scots (or Scotch) pine. Unlike many other conifers, needles on pine trees are clustered together in groups called fascicles. Determining the number of needles in a fascicle is the first step in identifying pines. White pines have five needles in each fascicle. The needles are thin and soft and often pale green. White pines have long (4” or longer), slender cones. Austrian pine and Scots pines are part of group known as hard pines along with our native jack pine and red pine. Hard pines have two or three needles in each fascicle. Scots pines have shorter (1 1/2’” or less) needles and smaller cones than Austrian pines. Older Scots pines have orange-reddish bark, whereas the bark on Austrian pines is grey.
Pine identification left to right: Scots (Scotch) pine, Austrian pine, eastern white pine. Photo by Bert Cregg, Michigan State University.
Road salt damage on white pine. Photo by Bert Cregg, Michigan State University.
Conifers located along the road can be damaged by road salt. Road crews apply sodium chloride and other deicing materials to keep roads clear in the winter. Many plants, especially eastern white pine, are sensitive to salt spray from roadways. Acute damage caused by direct salt exposure is easy to spot since the damage is usually greatest on the side of the trees facing the road. Sensitive trees such as white pine can usually survive one-year’s damage but repeated acute damage can ultimately disfigure or kill trees.
Another culprit is winter injury. Many conifers are subject to needle drying of winter burn during the winter. The most common symptom of winter burn is brown or red foliage on the exposed (often south) side of the tree. In some cases, trees will have a snowline below which no damage occurs since those needles were under snow when the rest of the tree was drying. Winter burn occurs frequently on dwarf Alberta spruce but can occur on other conifers as well.
In addition, several possible fungal pathogens can cause these symptoms as well.
Dothistroma needle blight
Austrian pine is commonly affected by Dothistroma needle blight. The foliage of the lower half of the tree turns brown in March to April.
Dothistroma needle blight is caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella pini. This common pine pathogen kills needles of all ages and can weaken or kill Austrian pine trees. Characteristic symptoms of Dothistroma infection is the presence of needles showing browning at the tip of the needle while the base of the needle remains green.
The black fruiting bodies of the fungus can be seen in the dead spots or bands on the needles. Dothistroma spores spread by wind and rain and can infect needles throughout the growing season. New needles are susceptible once they emerge from the needle sheaths. The black fruit bodies appear in the fall; however, the spores are released the following spring and summer. The best protection of new needles can occur when applying copper-based fungicides as the new needles emerge from the needle sheaths and as the spores are released from the fruiting bodies. This is usually June and July. Reports suggest that pruning infected branches helps reduce disease.
Dead needle tips and needle base remains green. Photo: Jill O’Donnell, MSU Extension.
Brown spot needle blight
Brown spot needle blight (Mycosphaerella dearnessii, syn. Scirrhia acicola) is relatively new to Scots pine in Michigan. Needle spots can appear on needles at any time of the year, but most commonly occur during August and September when trees suddenly turn brown just before growers are ready to harvest. Short-needled Scots pine varieties such as Spanish and French-green are more susceptible to fungal attack than the long-needled varieties.
Brown spot can be controlled by fungicidal sprays. The first application should be applied when the new needles are about half-grown (May-June), and a second spray three to four weeks later. The spray interval may need to be shortened in rainy conditions.
Left: Black fruiting bodies on dead needles. Photo: Jan Byrne, MSU. Right: Brown spot needle blight symptoms on Scots pine. Photo: Jill O’Donnell, MSU Extension.
Lophodermium is a severe needlecast of Scots pine, which in some cases can cause the entire tree to brown in spring. Even though we see the symptoms of Lophodermium in spring, the most important time to protect trees is from the end of July through September. This is when needles are infected from spores being released by the small, shiny, football-shaped, black fruiting bodies that form on the fallen needles. To break this disease cycle, the time to manage this disease with a fungicide is particularly in late July and throughout August, but maybe even into fall if it the weather stays warm and moist.
Lophodermium needlecast on Scots pine. Photo: Jill O’Donnell, MSU Extension.
You can help identify the disease your trees have by knowing the species of pine and the time of year you first see the symptoms. To confirm which needlecast disease you have, send a sample to MSU Diagnostic Services. The cost for a sample is $20.
Pine Tree Disease Overview
Disease: Dothistroma needle blight
Symptoms appear: March/April
Species: Primarily Austrian but also on Red pine, Scots pine
Timing of control: May – July
Disease: Lophodermium needlecast
Symptoms appear: April/May
Species: Primarily Scots pine but also found on Austrian and Red pine
Timing of control: August – September
Disease: Brown spot needle blight
Symptoms appear: August/September
Species: Primarily Scots pine but also on Red pine, Austrian
Timing of control: May – June