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Rhizosphaera needle cast

Michelle Grabowski and Cynthia Ash Kanner

Back to Diseases of spruce trees in Minnesota

landscape with pine tree missing needles

Photo by M. Grabowski

This disease is caused by the fungus Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii and is probably the most common needle disease in Minnesota.

Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens, is highly susceptible to this disease. White spruce (including Black Hills spruce), P. glauca, is intermediate in susceptibility and Norway spruce, P. abies, is relatively resistant. Trees that are stressed from drought, poor planting practices, or other factors are more likely to suffer from Rhizosphaera needle cast.

pine tree branches missing all needles save for the tips

Photo by J.Albers MNDNR



The pathogen overwinters on living and recently killed needles. Spores, called conidia, are dispersed by splashing water spring through early autumn. New needles on the lower branches are most commonly infected but if conditions are very favorable for infection (extended periods of moisture on the needles at 77° F) any needles can become infected.

close up of two orange-spotted pine needles

Photo by M.Ostry USDA FS,


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