Column: Leyland cypress looks afflicted this time of year

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 10:22 AM

This time of year leyland cypress shed their older needles. Needle drop, or needle shedding, is more pronounced this year than in past years. Typically, leyland cypress trees keep needles for three years before senescing. Due to shading and age, these 3-year-old needles turn brown and drop or shed. Individual branches with green, healthy growth on the outward portion of the branch but brown interior needles is normal. Although this process of shedding old needles happens annually, this year seems to be more dramatic than normal. Many homeowners have contacted the Caldwell Cooperative Extension Center with concern for their trees. Understanding the normal process of needle shedding puts these concerns to rest.

Although our overwhelming number of calls for the past two weeks has been related to leyland cypress needle drop, there have been a few other questions I thought would be of interest.

Question: My leyland cypress have small, pea-sized growths on the tips. Do you know what this is?

Answer: Leyland cypress trees flower occasionally. Like all the trees in the cypress family, leyland cypress are monoecious, meaning there are both male trees and female trees. The pea-sized growth will eventually produce a non-showy flower. If the tree is female, cones will develop from the pollinated flowers. If the tree is male, the flowers will drop off after producing pollen. However, a leyland cypress is a hybrid cross of Cupressaceae x Cupressocyparis species. This cross does not produce viable seed.

Question: Can industrial hemp be grown legally in North Carolina?

Answer: Industrial hemp is a useful plant. Hemp is a source of natural fiber used mainly to make cloth, rope, and paper. The seeds are also reported to be nutritionally dense and are often served roasted. Industrial hemp is typically defined as having less than 0.3 percent of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in any part of the plant. THC is the compound that produces the psychotropic effects associated with marijuana.

In the past, hemp was a valuable raw commodity. During World War II, the Philippine Islands fell into Japanese hands, stopping the export of hemp to the United States. Hemp was needed for the war effort. American farmers were encouraged to grow hemp. The United States Department of Agriculture produced a short promotional film called “Hemp for Victory.” The film can be viewed online on YouTube.

Commercial hemp production in the United States ceased in 1957. Federal laws regulating marijuana production made hemp production illegal. However, all things become new again with time. This past Jan. 3 Congress approved the Agricultural Act of 2014, better known as the farm bill, and Section 7606 allows for individual state agriculture departments to sanction the production of hemp for research purposes. Kentucky has taken initial steps toward legal hemp production for research purposes.

However, growing hemp is currently illegal in North Carolina. Even in Kentucky, permits are required to grow hemp, and permits are issued only for research purposes. Eventually it may become legal to grow hemp in the United States, but for now it remains illegal.

Seth Nagy is the Caldwell County Extension director. The Caldwell County Extension Center, 120 Hospital Ave. NE #1 in Lenoir, provides access to resources of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University through educational programs and publications. For more information, call 757-1290 or go to