Needle Cast

In 18 years of bonsai I had never came across needle cast on Pines. Am I just lucky? It’s strange how this hobby/art throws up new things every year. Just when you think you know something, you find out you know precious little!

This weekend I spent a good bit of my time researching and asking for advice on Pine needle Cast on Scots Pine. My pines are cast free but my friend Stephen has it on 4 of his. We believe it has spread to his garden on the wind from a large Scottie that was over looking his garden. The council cut it down as it was suffering from something. Now we know what that was!!

Here’s a few photos of one of Stephens infected Pines.

As you can see, the old needles have turned brown and have the banding that indicates Needle Cast. The tree is still strong as can be seen by the new candles emerging.

This was the tree in April, it looks strong and there was no visible sign of Needle Cast.

So what do we do now? I googled it, as one does these days, and read about all these fungicides that work, Zineb being the main one. Then as I look further into it I find that this is no longer available under EU regulations. I then refine my search to needle cast on bonsai. You can bet if anyone knows how to mollycoddle a pine tree its a bonsai enthusiast. This thread on the Internet Bonsai Club Forum was useful. I found more references to Zineb but also mention of regular treatment with Murphys Copper Based Fungicide. This prevents the cast spreading to new needles and with a prolonged period of treatment you can eventually eradicate the cast. This can take years.

I phoned Stephen and told him to hit the Garden Centres to buy this product. Yep you guessed it, nowhere has it!! We are still looking. This product is going to be removed from the market in 2013 and Murphys are no longer making it. Our only hope of finding it is in some back water garden centre that still has old stock. So far, no joy.

During this process I had posted a request for information on the Wee Trees Bonsai Forum, and Molly, Mike, Corin and Paul, 4 of the members, offered advice. The best bit of info came from Molly who asked his bonsai mentor, Rob Atkinson for advice at a weekend workshop. Rob said that copper based fungicide was the best treatment and that if Murphys was unavailable to try Vitax Bordeaux Mixture. Also, remove all infected needles and get rid. Remove all needles from the soil surface and even remove the top layer of soil. Keep the tree on the dry side and only water the soil when watering. After a few seasons, things should start to return to normal.

Well Bordeaux Mixture, containing Tetra Copper was readily available and was swiftly purchased.

So there you have it! The power of the internet and the bonsai community. I think at some point I’ll add this to a page on my blog as opposed to a post. At least it may help others who find themselves in this position. Thanks to all those who offered advice and even a willingness to post over a few packets of Murphy’s!

11 comments on “Needle Cast

  1. Some of that damage looks more like old needles being shed rather than a disease as there seems to be some good strong new growth coming through. It seems that the tell-tale sign is the zebra stripe rather than all over yellowing, but as Dr Nina says, this can be caused by a vast range of things – not all of them problems. Howeve, it’s always a good idea to take appropriate preventive strikes. btw did you also have a look at Mikey P’s post on IBC about a similar thing on his new Mugo pine?


    • Hi Fiona, Yes I read just about everything I could find lol.
      This tree had no yellow needles at all a month ago. The zebra striping is also evident but more so at the start of the infection appearing. From what I can ascertain there are 3 types of infections, 2 are needle cast and one is needle blight. Bordeaux Mixture works on 2 of them. Here’s a useful link. Look at the table about half way down.


  2. a back-up question: does the Bordeaux Mixture information make any mention of being effective in sorting out leaf curl? I have in my head that Murphy’s was good for this. I have some leaf curl on a Blackthorn and a hawthorn.


  3. Do you think it will be ok btw I missed my two page daily email on larch progression lol I know its only been a weekend but is it recovering 😐


  4. I think i have found this site too late.

    My tree has all these symptons, being new to the hobby felt drought and the inpending winter caused the yellowing. Now i have very few needles left, the bark is still very green underneath any adivce on a major rescue operation?? Please help me save my tree.


    • Hi Daniel,

      First, don’t panic 🙂

      It may be needle cast or any one of a dozen other things. A photo of the tree would help. You can email it to me at bonsaieejitatgmaildotcom.

      If we assume it is needle cast, do the following.
      Remove any dead needles from the base of the tree.
      Only water the pot not the foliage from now on.
      Protect well over the Winter but remember it still needs light.
      The buds that you have sitting there should still open in the Spring. As they are opening spray with a Copper based Fungicide once a month during next years growing season.
      The needle will be weak but hopefully over the next few years vigour will return.

      Get back to me with the photo if you can. Always happy to help.


  5. Hi
    Thanks for spotting the needle cast on my yamadori pine at Burrs, and for the advice. I’ve got the Bordeaux mix now.
    Having read the last comment, should I apply a dose now, or just remove infected needles (and top soil) and start applying in spring and through the growing season?

    Thanks again for your help,



  6. Hey Hey,

    Just wanted to apologise for my time away from here.

    The advice given way back 3 years ago was spot on regarding needle cast and the treatment of it.

    My tree is now fully booming (a little too much in fact) and now I will need to start trimming and actually allow myself to take part in this art. I left it be for a long time with small clipping and repotting regualarly to allow for fres nutritious soil to help nurture the tree back to health.

    Now i am back and using the photos to gain some inspiration, my tree is a little too wild.

    I just wanted to say thanks and if anyone wants to send me some inspirational pictures then please do.

    But hey all good and thanks for all your excellent support and advise, i know have one healthy happy tree, just slightly untamed

    Have a good weekend.


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