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Dark Trunk on Alberta Spruce

Q: I have had the Dwarf Alberta Spruce for about 5 years. It was very healthy and grew quickly, now about 5' high.

I have recently started spring gardening and noticed last week that the bottom layer of branches are separating. Closer inspection indicated that the bark of the truck and lower branches are black and unhealthy.

Many branches near the bottom have turned black too and the needles have fallen off. The tips of the branches are still green, but I think something is wrong.

What do you think? I didn't notice anything last year. I don't see any bugs but it might be too early for bugs. What do you suggest?

Thanks, PS - I live in central Maryland.

A: The bottom of the trunk of dwarf Albertas tends to get dark naturally with age, so there may not be a problem.

However, you may have scale (a type of insect), but it's hard to tell without seeing the branches in question.

Give them a close examination under magnification to see if you can spot any specks on the branches. If so, snip one off and have your local garden center or other plant expert look at the branch.

And it may be nothing at all, and just the effect of shading from the upper portion of the plant.

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Tom Mugridge

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