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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - May 25, 2013

From: Lakeway, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Trees
Title: Problems with Ashe juniper from Lakeway TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Sir/Madam, I have been living for the last three years in Lakeway, Texas approximately 20 miles west of Austin. In my back garden there are several ashe junipers about 15-20ft tall. However, I am most concerned about the one in the center of the garden which is about 30-35ft tall. There are green needles only on the upper third of the tree due, I believe, to the age of the tree. It is the only one in the past month that has developed a wide spread of brown clumps of needles that have begun to fall to the ground. I cannot ascertain if this is symptomatic of its growth, if it is diseased or if it has been traumatized. Last month a major storm snapped off a couple of huge limbs which had to be sawed off. It was after this incidence that I became aware of the falling clumps of needles. I would be most appreciative if you could tell me if I should be concerned about the health of the tree and what measures, if any, I should take.

ANSWER:

Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on browning of Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper)  due to drought. It has been very dry in Central Texas this year, although it is raining outside as we speak,  but it sounds like you may have other problems in your tree. We are particularly concerned about the storm damage and removed limbs. If the area of the trunk where the branches were sawed off were not treated with pruning paint, there might have been the possibility of some disease or damaging insect gaining access to the vascular system in the tree through those wounds.

From Texas A&M Forest Service, we found this article on the juniper webworm, the symptoms of which sound very similar to what you are reporting. In fact, Lakeway, in Travis County, is mentioned in this article:

"The author thanks Carrie Burns, forester for the City of Lakeway; Eric Beckers, oak wilt forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service; and Ron Billings, principal entomologist with the Texas A&M Forest Service for information and photos included in this report."

This report was written in 2002, but the fact that the forester for the City of Lakeway did a report on this problem is an indication that the insect is around in your area. Another problem that we learned of is juniper blight, which we researched in an article from Clemson University Extension. This did not sound that specific to the problems you discuss, and we also learned that juniper blight was more apt to occur east of the Mississippi, so that may not be your situation, but we still recommend you read the whole article and look for similarities.

We are inclined, purely on symptomatic results, to believe the juniper webworm is your problem and hope you will study that whole article, too. However, we are not entomologists and recommend you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Tarrant County to see if they have some updated infomation on the problem. Here are some pictures and more information on the juniper webworm.

The pictures below are from our native plant Image Gallery. With the exception of the first picture, they are all showing normal growth. Unfortunately, we have no information on what caused the browning in the first picture.

 

From the Image Gallery


Ashe juniper
Juniperus ashei

Ashe juniper
Juniperus ashei

Ashe juniper
Juniperus ashei

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