Ponderosa Pine trees facing predicament during increased amount of dangerous hail

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Admirers of the Black Hills know that when trees turn brown, it could be a sign of trouble and in recent weeks, patches of dying branches are dotting the landscape.

Driving along Highway 16 just south of Reptile Gardens, is a swatch of brown dying trees, but not because of Mountain Pine Beetles.

“A lot of what people see are the needles are all brown and everything else, which is what happens when trees are killed by pine beetles, but if you look at it closer, generally about half of the tree is brown, and the other half is still green,” said US Forest Service Entomologist Kurt Allen.

The dying look of the trees is due to hail damage from this season – and there are patches like this scattered throughout the hills. This is caused by wounds inflicted with hail hit branches, breaking and killing them.

The hail will generally hit only one side of the tree, giving it a two-toned appearance, unlike the beetles which burrow and kill the entire tree from the inside out. While the appearance is odd, there is no need for concern, as most trees will survive.

“They’re gonna lose a lot of those needles that are brown and everything else,” Allen said. “And some of the branches are gonna die back a little bit, but you know all of the hail damage we’ve seen, most of the trees should come back out of it in a year or two and survive just fine. They’re gonna look a little thin a little ratty for a couple of years.”

Fortunately, the U.S. Forest Service will not need to treat the trees, as they are not wholly dead, and the healthy portion of the trees will continue their normal life cycles through fall and winter.

“This year has been, for whatever reason, we’ve been caught in that little whirlpool of hail coming very frequently this year,” Allen said. “So we’re seeing a lot more this year than we typically do.”

Allen also said that among the trees in South Dakota, Ponderosa Pine are very resilient, and can take a lot of suffering. 

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News

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