In the midwest - lots of almost totally brown evergreens. WTF?

I see rows of evergreens outside peoples’ houses, all manner of various conifers that look as if they’ve been burnt out somehow, maybe overwhelmed by a virus, or suffering from something mysterious. Usually, by now, all these plants have emerged from winter and are all greening up, if they weren’t green all winter. Could this particularly long and cold winter have killed off these plants? Doesn’t seem likely - they’re built for this, aren’t they? Is there something going on? Why are so many of the evergreens apparently dying, or at least not thriving? They look dead. They’re all brown and dry. Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

Most of the midwest had an unusually brutal winter. My planting zone is typically 5b but this last winter pushed it into 4 category because of the extended cold season without an insulating layer of snow.

My lone conifer has some damage but is recovering. However, I’ve seen winter killand dead or damaged plants all over the place.

I know what you mean, they look kind of a rust color. The few small ones in my yard have come back for the most part, but not entirely. I don’t know what it is, but this last winter was certainly a cold one.

A few years back, we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park, and on the west side, you got to look out over broad vistas of green and orange evergreens, mixed together. And in south western New Mexico it was like that. I think that was from the damn pine bark beetle.

I believe it’s ‘spruce’ bark beetle (unless there are two kinds?). Alaska was infested with the damn things, which killed off tens of thousands of acres of forest and greatly increased the fire danger.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few different bark beetles. Mountain pine beetle (a variety of bark beetle) is the culprit in the Rocky Mountain area.

Here in Missouri, we have a bark beetle problem. About half of the pines on our property have been killed by them, and they won’t be the last. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t much you can do. Sucks.

Drought maybe? I don’t think that cold weather is really much of a challenge for most conifers; after all, a lot of their adaptations are for cold weather survival.

My evergreen bushes were green through the brutal winter. And so were the clippings I’d thrown in my compost pile. But as soon as they started getting new, light-green growth they also got dead rust-colored bits.

It was the winter.

lots of cold wind can dry out a evergreen.

A plant may be “adapted for cold weather survival,” yet not be adapted for the kind of winter/spring we’ve had this year. “Brutal” is not an exaggeration.

The deciduous is geared toward creating new nodes each year.

The evergreens do not create enough nodes each year to replace all the leaves at once. They slowly create new nodes over the years, which works fine if the leaves survive winter… But after the hard winter the tree looks dead. The node with too many dead leaves do not regrow new shoots . So with all the leaves killed, there are few nodes creating new leaves.

The sick trees are exposed to attack from parasites and fungi, so many may die.

Here’s a report to say more , from Michigan

BTW, Florida has a rash of sick and dead palms…

OP: “The midwest” is a big place. Where specifically have you seen this?

In my previous area of St. Louis there was a strong habit by the developers and landscapers to install trees which were not really suited for the climate zone. The advantage was they were cheap to buy and fast-growing. Which worked great until an unusually hot summer or cold winter or early / late snow or ice storm (depending on the species) killed them off en masse.

Minor correction; it’s Spruce bud worm and Pine bark beetle. Or some sub-variety of same. Both have attacked large acreage of Oregon timber, esp. in the Blue Mountains which, being inland are considerably drier than the Cascades. Drought years when the trees are already stressed are the worst times for an attack.

Not sure if they’re active in the midwest though…

Trees did not evolve to flourish in a row in a suburban yard. In such an environment they can be subjected to stresses they are not equipped for, making them more prone to failure. Furthermore, many residential plantings are exotics, that do not normally occur in that range and habitat. For example, the Red Cedar is the only conifer native to Kansas, and a conifer of any other species is an “exotic” anywhere in that state.

You had some extreme cold and a lot of bushes were coated with snow for a long time this winter, blocking sunlight to the plants. Near roadways you also had significant salt spray and run-off which can harm them. My yews spent most of the winter covered by fortunately came through with only minimum browning and, more surprisingly, retained their shape despite being smushed down for four months.

It was the cold weather.
Some varieties that have been doing fine for years got hit hard this year. I have some shrubs that I could see turning brown after day after day of below zero temps. Not completely dead but some of them heavily damaged. Other types of evergreens fared better.

Another vote for the cold weather. Back in '77, Indiana had a really cold winter. I got a job at a nursery the next year, and people were replacing all kinds of things they lost the year before that usually make it through the winter unscathed. Evergreens (arbor vitae, various junipers) were hard-hit.

Has anyone mentioned that winter '13-'14 was brutal?

Son, back in the winter of '13-'14, it was cold enough to kill a *Rose of Sharon *in my yard! Things are like weeds around my parts, I didn’t even know they were capable of dieing.

I would just like to mention that the winter of '13-'14 was brutal, in case anyone was wondering.

This sounds kind of new-agey. What, exactly, is it about a suburban environment that stresses them - SUV’s? Large high schools? What about being planted in a row? Is there something deeply programmed in them to find geometric order stressful? I think you might make your case stronger with some less facile and culture-trashing terminology.