Trees are certainly beautiful works of nature and can be a wonderful feature on your property. However, just as they are beautiful and life-bearing, they also have the potential to cause a lot of damage and even death. That means that it is critically important that you know when you’re dealing with a healthy tree, a dying tree, and when it’s time to call in the professionals.

While the chances of being struck by a falling tree are pretty slim, the likelihood that a tree could fall and damage your home or property isn’t. Happy and healthy trees not only bring joy to the people around to see them, but they also bring life-giving nutrients to the world around it. Doing your part to keep the trees around you healthy and alive is a wonderful contribution to the environment.

We are going to take a look at five common signs of a dying tree and when it’s a problem that can be ignored for the time being, or needs to be addressed right away.

What Classifies a Dying Tree?

If you and a professional were looking at the same tree, you might not be able to tell that the tree is dead, or well on its way. Unlike many other living things, trees don’t just shrivel up and wither away when they die. Many trees that are standing tall today are already dead and have been for a while.

This leads many to question what exactly classifies a tree as dead and how to tell if a tree is dying or not. Even some healthy trees can show signs of sickness during certain cycles in its life. This can be confusing, and lead someone to down a perfectly healthy and happy tree.

On the other hand, a tree that is very sick and dangerous could appear from the outside like there’s nothing wrong at all. That’s why we have professionals that can help us determine when a tree needs help or removal. Invasive species, bad weather, and other factors can make a huge impact on the health of a tree but aren’t always so simple to identify.

While there is no cut-and-dry way to determine if a tree is truly dead until you get the opinion of an arborist, there are certainly plenty of warning signs and issues that occur when a tree has become diseased or is already dead.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at our five most common signs a tree is dead:

1. The Tree Is Not Producing Green Leaves

If you have a tree that typically produces beautiful healthy and green foliage and is no longer doing so, there is a pretty good chance that the tree is either dying or already dead.

Photosynthesis is one of the most basic processes of biological life, so if photosynthesis is no longer occurring, then life isn’t going too well for your tree.

If your tree is producing even a little bit of green foliage, even if it is only a tiny fraction of its typical growth, your tree is still alive. This probably means that the tree is suffering some sort of disease, and needs some immediate attention before it becomes too late.

This can also be a bit of a misleading sign, though, especially in coniferous evergreen trees. A lot of times, older foliage on a tree will start to yellow or brown over time. This can cause concern but is actually a pretty normal event in the life of an evergreen. The foliage that you want to pay close attention to is the new stuff. If new foliage is turning brown, then you might have some trouble.

Dead trees cannot be saved, but sick ones can. The earlier on that you catch this issue, the more likely it is that your tree can be saved. If you aren’t an arborist, you probably won’t have the knowledge or means to do this yourself. So, make sure that you call a professional if you suspect that your tree is dying.

2. Branches Are Brittle and Falling

The health of your tree is often exhibited by its branches. If you’re concerned about your tree, go out and take a look at the wood. If you notice that a lot of branches have fallen, or they are easy to snap off, your tree may be dying. A healthy tree will have branches that are difficult to break off.

A great test at home is to go out and break off a branch and scrape away some bark. There should be a considerable amount of moist green color underneath the bark. If you can easily break off a branch and you see that it is brown, brittle, and dry under the bark, there may be something seriously wrong.

If the wood is wet and rotten and crumbles or falls apart by touching it, this is a really good indication that you have a dying tree. If many of the branches are falling, this could be a dangerous sign about the fate of your tree. You should consider calling in an expert to take a look at the structural integrity of the tree.

3. The Health of the Bark Has Declined

Another really powerful way you can speculate about your tree’s health is by evaluating certain aspects of its bark. If there are several holes forming in the bark, that is a bad sign. It’s also a bad sign when you see a lot of sap oozing out of the tree, as it typically means that bugs are getting inside of there.

You can also check and see how strong the bark is in general. If you find that the bark is easily scraped off, and is very weak in strength, then your tree might be in some trouble.

There’s also such a thing that occurs on trees that are in worsening shape known as cankers. Like the kinds of cankers that humans get, cankers are a sign that the tree has had some infectious fungal issues. You can tell if a tree has cankers if you can see patches and spots of dead bark on the tree surrounded by healthier bark.

Luckily, things like cankers, although harmful to the tree, can easily be dealt with if you are working with a professional. Especially if these cankers occur on branches that can be pruned away to prevent further spread of fungal infection.

If the overall appearance and integrity of the bark seem to be in good shape, and it is free of cankers, cracks, and large holes, it is likely a pretty healthy tree. Don’t be fooled, though, as the bark may be the last sign of an issue. If there are other signs of disease and decay in the tree don’t wait to call a professional and have them take a look.

4. Your Tree Has a Heavy Lean

This may seem like an obvious sign, but it goes unnoticed and untreated by many people before it’s too late. All plants tend to grow in the direction of light, even when other elements get in the way. That is why you will see trees that have a 90-degree bend at the base and then shoots straight up into the air.

However, it is normal for trees to sometimes lean a bit to one side. A more dramatic lean, on the other hand, is a much more detrimental signal that there is an issue here.

When you see that a tree has a serious lean in one direction or another, this is not a good thing. This could potentially mean that your tree is on its way out, and this could be very dangerous to you, your home, and your property. This is something that is especially important to take into consideration after a recent storm.

If your tree was standing upright before the storm, and now it is leaning to one side or the other, there is likely a huge problem. Unfortunately, a scenario like this is pretty bleak, and the likelihood of resuscitating this tree is slim. There is much more danger at hand when a tree is leaning than any good.

If there is any time that is most critical to call for help when it comes to trees on your property, it is when your tree has a heavy lean. The sooner that the tree is removed, assuming there is nothing else that can be done, the better off you are. There is nothing good about a tree that’s ready to fall.

5. Your Tree Is Being Overtaken by Other Species

The last sign we will discuss that you’ve got a dying or dead tree on your hands has to do with the presence of other species. Trees are home to lots of different organisms, including bugs, moss, animals, and more. However, most of the time, the habitation of other organisms is a bad sign for tree life.

This is especially true near the roots, and if the species at hand is foreign to that local ecosystem. If you go outside and find some fungi growing around the base of your tree, that means there is an issue. If you notice a sudden increase of fungi around the roots of the tree, call an arborist to evaluate the tree.

Insects are another issue. While these tiny creatures appear harmless to a giant tree, they are actually quite a problem for them. Insects and pests are one of the leading causes of tree death. Often times, trees that have become vulnerable due to other issues like cracks, holes, and cankers are the ones that will face pest problems.

If you suspect that your tree is infested, it’s a really good idea to call a professional right away as to prevent the situation from worsening.

Heavy moss on a tree is another bad sign. While it seems like the two go hand-in-hand, moss tends to kill trees by taking away its nutrients. Moss can essentially act like a vampire to a tree if it sticks around long enough. This problem can usually be solved without much work, as removal of the moss is typically all it takes.

How an Arborist Can Help

Trees are complicated organisms, and they take a lot of time, effort, and studying, to fully understand. An arborist is an expert in trees and will be able to identify issues that your average Joe wouldn’t even know to look for.

An arborist is a handy person to have around if you have trees on your property that you want to take care of. They can diagnose disease and death in trees, take necessary measures to improve the health of your trees, and even take care of some of the more dangerous climbing work that needs to be done so you can stay safely on the ground.

Trees are nothing to joke about, they can bring beauty and aesthetic to your property, or death and destruction, depending on their condition. That’s why it is important to consult a professional at any sign of an issue.

Once a problem has been identified, the arborist will be the one to help you solve that problem. Whether that means nursing the tree back to health, pruning it, or safely bringing it down and removing it. Whatever the task may be, an arborist can certainly bring you all the help that you need.

Tree Service You Can Trust

Keeping your trees alive and well is our job, get the job done right with professionals you can trust.

For more information regarding the need for tree removal service or other dying tree services, check out our blog to find even more great resources. And of course, be sure and drop us a line for all of your tree service needs. The key to a safe, happy, and healthy tree lies with the help of our experts!