One of the most important things you can do for your home is to regularly check your trees.

While trees are often low-maintenance, they can still fall victim to pests, diseases, and other problems that may require a tree removal service.

Learning how to identify a dead or dying tree is crucial for maintaining the health and safety of your home.

In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to identify a dead or dying tree so you can protect your home and property. Stay safe!

How To Identify A Dead Or Dying Tree

How To Identify A Dead Tree

A dead tree is not always easy to spot. Sometimes, trees can linger for years before finally succumbing to disease or pests.

However, there are some telltale signs that can help you identify a dead tree:

Lack Of Leaves

One of the most obvious indicators is a complete lack of leaves.

If a tree has bare branches, it is likely dead or in the process of dying.

The exception is if it’s autumn or winter and the tree is deciduous.

Cracks In The Trunk

Another sign of a dead or dying tree is damage to the tree trunk.

If the trunk is cracked or the bark is peeling, it may be an indication that the tree is no longer alive.

Fungus Growing

Dead trees often have mushrooms or other types of fungus growing on them.

The fungus is typically found around the base of the tree. It can also be found higher up on the tree trunk.

The presence of mushrooms is a pretty good indication that the tree is dead and is being consumed by fungus from the inside out.

No Moisture Is Present When Scratched

If you scratch a healthy tree, you will find moisture and usually a green coloring under the surface.

However, a dead or dying tree will be dry and show no green when scratched.

Brittle Branches

Another sign of a dead tree is dry and brittle branches that are easily broken.

Similar to the “scratch test,” breaking branches off different parts of the tree is a simple way to check for the presence of moisture and green coloring.

A lack of both is a good indication that the tree is dead.

Regardless of the cause, a dead tree can pose a serious hazard to people and property.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to have the tree evaluated by a certified arborist to determine whether it needs to be removed.

Common Signs Of A Dying Tree

Though it may take years, all trees eventually die.

While some die of old age, others may succumb to disease, pests, or environmental stressors.

Fortunately, there are 8 common signs that can help you identify a dying tree.

1. Dead Branches

One of the most obvious signs of a dying tree is the presence of dead branches.

Since branches are essentially the tree’s limbs, they’re where the tree’s circulatory system runs. They carry water and nutrients up from the roots to the leaves.

If a branch dies, it’s a sign that the tree is no longer able to support that section. This means it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the tree dies as well.

There are a few ways to tell if a branch is dead.

The first is to look at the bark. If the bark is cracked or peeling, it’s a sign that the branch doesn’t have enough moisture and is dying.

You can also simply give the branch a gentle tug. If it comes off easily, it’s definitely dead.

2. Leaves Are Wilted Or Brown

One telltale sign of a dying tree is when its leaves start to turn brown or wilt.

There are several possible causes of leaf browning or wilting.

These include disease, pests, or stress from environmental factors.

To determine the cause of the problem, start by inspecting the leaves for signs of damage.

Look for spots, discoloration, holes, or other markings that could indicate pests or diseases.

You can also check the soil around the tree for drought stress.

If the soil is dry and cracked, it could be causing the leaves to wilt.

By taking the time to inspect your tree’s leaves, you can quickly identify any potential problems and take steps to save your dying tree.

3. Fungus Or Moss Growing On The Tree

One way to identify a dying tree is by looking for signs of fungus or moss growth.

These organisms often thrive in damp conditions, so their presence can be an indicator that the tree is not getting enough airflow or nutrients. 

Fungi feed off a tree’s decaying wood, and moss is a sign of poor drainage.

Both of these problems can be fatal to a tree.

4. Holes In The Trunk Or Branches

Another sign of a dying tree is holes in the trunk or branches.

These holes are typically caused by decay, insects, or disease.

They can quickly weaken the overall structure of the tree.

5. Bark Is Peeling Or Flaking

If you notice that the bark on your tree is peeling or flaking, it could be a sign that the tree is dying.

Once the bark starts to come off, it can provide an entry point for pests and diseases, which can further damage the tree.

6. Tree Is Leaning

A tree leaning over for a long time is a possible sign of a dying tree. 

A leaning tree can be the result of a number of factors, including wind damage or simply the tree’s age.

The roots may also be diseased or rotted.

If you notice that your tree is leaning, it’s important to take action soon. A leaning tree can pose a serious safety hazard, especially if it’s located near your home or another structure. 

7. Insect Infestation

If you think you might have an insect infestation, there are some telltale signs to look for. 

For example, if you see holes in the bark or leaves, that’s a sign that insects have been feeding on the tree.

You might also see sawdust near the base of the tree, which is a sign that insects have been tunneling through the wood.

In some cases, you might even see insects themselves crawling on the trunk or branches. In either case, an insect infestation is another possible sign of a dying tree.

8. Bark Is Falling Off

Tree bark is essential for the health of a tree.

It protects the trunk and branches from damage and helps to regulate temperature. Bark also contains important nutrients that help the tree to grow. 

So if you notice that bark is falling off your tree, it’s a clear sign that the tree is dying. 

What You Should Do If You Find A Dead Tree

If you have a dead tree on your property, it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

A dead tree can pose a serious safety hazard, as the limbs or the entire tree could fall at any time.

Dead trees also often harbor diseases and pests, which can spread to other trees and plants on your property.

If the tree is small enough, you may be able to remove it yourself.

However, for larger trees, it’s best to hire a professional tree removal service. Not only will they have the proper equipment for the job, but they will also be able to dispose of the tree properly.

Once the tree is gone, you’ll need to fill in the resulting hole. This can be done with topsoil and mulch.

Alternatively, you can replant a new tree in the same spot. If you do choose to replant, be sure to choose a species that is well-suited to your climate and soil conditions.

Can You Save A Dying Tree?

If you identify a sick or dying tree on your property–don’t despair! There are steps you can take to save it.

Fertilize: Try fertilizing the soil around the base of the tree with a high-quality fertilizer.

This will give the tree the nutrients it needs to recover from whatever stressor (drought, insect infestation, disease) caused it to become unhealthy in the first place.

Water: In some cases, deep watering may be all that is needed to revive a tree’s health. It’s the easiest way to revive a dying tree.

Fungicide: If a sick tree is suffering from fungal or bacterial infections, it may require more intensive treatment. Diseases can often be treated with fungicides or other chemicals.

But unless you are confident that you have correctly diagnosed the disease, it’s probably best to consult with a tree specialist.

Pruning and Physical Support: Damaged trees that are leaning or have other issues can still be saved.

However, they may need to be pruned or provided with support to prevent them from toppling over.

If none of these steps work, you may need to consult with a professional arborist who can provide more targeted care for your tree.

Common Causes Of Dying And Decaying Trees

Dying and decaying trees are often caused by environmental factors. Here are some of the most common reasons why trees may die or start to decay:

Drought: Drought is perhaps the most common cause of dying trees.

When a tree is unable to receive enough water, its leaves will begin to wilt and fall off. The tree may also produce fewer leaves than usual, and its bark may start to crack and peel.

Eventually, the tree will die if it does not receive enough water.

Soil compaction: Soil compaction can also cause dying and decaying trees.

When the soil around a tree is compacted, it prevents the tree’s roots from receiving the oxygen and water it needs to survive.

Compacted soil also prevents new roots from growing, which can eventually kill the tree.

Flooding: Flooding can also damage healthy trees and lead to their death.

Floodwaters can suffocate tree roots and prevent them from receiving oxygen, leading to dying leaves and branch dieback.

Pollutants: Chemical pollutants can also lead to dying and decaying trees.

These pollutants can come from a variety of sources, including road salt, herbicides, and acid rain.

They can damage a tree’s leaves, bark, and roots, leading to dieback and eventual death.

Arbor Works Can Help With Your Trees

If you’re not sure whether a tree is dead or just looks unhealthy, the best course of action is to contact a professional arborist for help. They will be able to give you an expert opinion on what to do next.

This is why Arbor Works guarantees that an ISA Certified Arborist (International Society of Arboriculture) will be present at every job site.

We can assess the situation and determine if the tree can be saved or if it needs to be removed for safety reasons. Don’t wait until it’s too late–fill out our contact form today!