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Top 4 Signs That Indicate a Tree is Dead

In the meantime, continue reading to learn the top 4 common signs that indicate a tree could be dead.

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❶ Bare Branches

One of the most obvious signs that a tree is not healthy is branch loss. If you notice that a tree on your property looks bare this spring because it failed to produce a full canopy of foliage, it could be having health issues or close to dying. In the case that half of the tree’s canopy is full and bright and the other half is bare, it could be a sign that the tree is sick with a disease. Common tree diseases that cause foliage loss include Oak Wilt, Fire Blight, Emerald Ash Borer, Root Rot, and Crown Rot. If a large tree is diseased and loses half its canopy, it could become a safety hazard since the imbalance of foliage weight can cause the tree to fall.

❷ Trunk Damage

After you take a look at the tree’s canopy, you need to inspect the trunk. A tree’s trunk will provide good evidence if it becomes ill or malnourished. Look closely for vertical cracks. This kind of tree damage is a good indication that it is not doing well in terms of health. It may still be alive, but something is interfering with its health and structural integrity. Tree trunks should have bark that protects the inner parts of the trunk responsible for nutrient and water absorption and distribution. If you see patches on the trunk that are completely smooth and bark-free (almost like finished wood), whether large or small, it is a bad sign.

❸ Fungal Growth

The appearance of mushrooms and similar fungal growths are a common sign of a dead tree, or tree decline. To look for fungal growth, pay close attention to trunk and the base of the tree. This is where it likes to grow since it is usually darker and cooler. If you see fungus on the trunk, it is likely that the trunk is rotted on the inside and the tree is dead.

❹ Root Damage

Root damage can be hard to spot on a relatively young or newly planted tree. However, you can sometimes spot root damage yourself. For instance, look to see if the tree is leaning to one particular side. This is an indication that the root system is damaged or weakened. You can also look for epicormic shoots. These look like misplaced branches growing out of the bottom of a tree trunk. These two signs often indicate that a tree has damaged roots. If the tree roots are very large and stick out of the ground, look for damages done by lawn mowers, construction, wildlife, and pests. To confirm accurately if a tree has root damage, you would need to contact a licensed Indianapolis tree service for a professional inspection and assessment.

Still Unsure if Your Tree is Dead or Alive?

Pull a few twigs from the tree and scratch a portion of the bark off. If the inner tissue is moist and green, the tree is alive. If it is brittle and dry, the tree is dead. Be sure to test three or four branches to be sure.

Indianapolis Tree Service

Call A Complete Tree Care at 317-783-2518 for prompt and professional Indianapolis tree service. We are experienced tree care technicians that can resolve your tree problems, regardless of your projects size or scope. We offer a wide range of tree removal and tree services, for both residential and commercial properties. We even offer free estimates and free tree care advice!

Indianapolis Tree Care 317-783-2518

  • Scrape lightly and look for green. Just beneath the outer layer of every branch and twig is the cambium, a thin green layer. It is green in every season, even winter, but it turns brown when the plant dies. This is the most decisive way to test young wood, with an outer layer thin enough for you to scratch with pruners, a knife, or your fingernail on the youngest wood. On old branches with thick bark, you may need to slowly use a saw or another method of checking the wood.
  • Shake the branch. A slender (roughly under a half inch in diameter) living branch should be flexible, bendable without cracking. Dead wood will snap. It will also often feel lighter, drier and hollower. Walking past shrubs with gloves shaking suspicious branches is a great way to quickly find dead wood.
  • Look for buds. Early spring when the buds begin to swell and break is a great time for this sign. If a node on the branch contains even one firm or swelling bud, the branch is still alive. If all the nodes are bare of buds or have only dry buds that collapse when squeezed between your fingers, the branch is dead.
  • Look at the branch collar. The branch collar is the ring that completely encircles the base of a branch, just above where it attaches to its parent branch or the trunk. The collar will usually be slightly raised or swollen looking. When the branch dies, the collar at its base begins, year by year, trying to engulf and swallow the dead branch. If you see a roll of wood that seems to be creeping up your branch, that branch has probably been dead a while and should be cut off just above the collar.

Ever noticed how a falling tree always seems to come as a surprise to most homeowners, and people in general? Most of us seem to think that trees are so huge and sturdy that it would take an F2 tornado or Katrina-level hurricane winds to completely uproot them. It may not look like it, but trees are susceptible to a sundry of external factors that could cause them to get damaged and fall over. Just like any other living organism on this planet, trees are susceptible to disease, decay, and aging. They grow old and become weak over time. Granted that some trees have double, or even triple, the lifespan of an average human, the fact is they do go through the same aging process as any living thing.

What Causes A Tree To Fall Over?

There are plenty of reasons why trees can sometimes fall over.

  • Among them are improper planting conditions, advanced insect infestation, malnutrition, poor soil condition, flooding, construction damage, old age, and a host of other causes.

Accurately predicting when a tree is going to fall is impossible. However, we can learn to spot the warning signs and do something about them before it’s too late. So, is your tree about to fall? Below are the telltale signs you need to know.

Signs Your Tree May Fall

Visible Dead Branches That Fall With Minimal Agitation

Okay. Seeing dead branches on a tree doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to fall over entirely. It does, however, present a clue as to the current condition of the tree. When you start seeing falling dead branches, your tree is trying to tell you that there’s something wrong.

  • Shedding branches is the tree’s way of self-pruning.
  • It’s trying to make itself smaller, which typically means it’s not getting enough nourishment, which could also mean it’s getting attacked by burrowing insects, among other things.

There’s A Cavity/Hole In The Trunk Of The Tree

One of the side effects of a tree trying to shed its branches by self-pruning is the formation of a cavity inside its trunk.

  • The open wound from the broken branch could lead to decay inside the tree. However, this may not mean that the tree is going to collapse soon.
  • If the cavity is isolated and there’s enough solid wood around it, then your tree is probably not going to tip over or break into half.

It may be best to consult a tree professional when assessing this kind of problem.

The Presence Of Deep Cracks Or Missing Bark On The Trunk Of The Tree

Here’s another sign that your tree may be dead or dying. If you find patches of missing bark—otherwise known as cankers—on the trunk of your tree, you might want to have it examined by an Arborist.

  • The presence of cankers is a sign that the tree is dying.

Deep cracks on the trunk should also be a concern.

  • These make the trunk considerably weaker and therefore more likely to become a hazard.

When you spot a crack on your tree, it’s best to have it taken care of sooner than later.

The Tree Has A Tight V-Shaped Branch Growth

The branch growth on a tree should be at an ideal distance, so there’s enough room for the branches to develop. This strong union is evident in its U-shape.

  • Branches that grow too close together, on the other hand, will often be in a V-shape. This could spell disaster for the tree and everyone or everything around it.

The best time to spot V-shaped branch growth is during late fall or during the winter after all the leaves have fallen off and the tree is well into its hibernation period.

The Roots Of The Tree Are Weak and Rotten

Now, this can be a bit harder to spot, since the tree’s root system is covered in soil. There is, however, a reliable way to determine if the tree is rotting inside.

  • Check for mushrooms and other fungi growing around the base of the tree or on the trunk. A fungus is often a good indicator of rotting wood.

If this is the case for your tree, then you need to consult with a Certified Arborist to figure out the best course of action.

How to Tell if a Tree is Dead and Needs to be Removed

Identifying whether a tree is dead or living can sometimes be a very tricky task – especially in the winter time when every tree can look dead. While it is possible, yet sometimes difficult, to revive some sick or dying trees it is impossible to bring a dead tree back to life. There are many reasons that you should remove a dead tree which we will touch on in this post. But how exactly can you tell if a tree is dead, sick, or healthy? Here are a few signs that can help you determine exactly this question and what steps to take after.

Things to check for on a dead tree

The first thing that you need to do is inspect the actual tree in question. There are a few visual signs that will help you out as well as some tests you can perform on the tree itself.

Fungus Growth

Take a look around the tree’s trunk and base of the trunk. Do you see any fungus growing? Fungus is an initial sign that the tree could be dead. If you spot fungus on the trunk this is often an indication that the internals of the tree trunk are actually rotted out and anything beyond the living fungus is dead.

Tree Trunk Damage

Keeping your focus on the actual tree trunk itself, give it a good visual inspection. Look for cracks that are running vertically along it. If the trunk has severe damage this increases the likelihood that the tree is in bad health. Check to see if the tree has bark. As trees age bark will fall off of the trunk and if healthy grow back to replace the old stuff. If a tree isn’t as healthy you will see areas, large or small, on the trunk that are just smooth areas of wood with no bark covering it.

Check for Bare Branches

Take a look at the trees’ branches. If they’re abnormally bare during a time when they shouldn’t be – such as Spring or Summer – there’s a good chance the tree is too far gone to save. Sometimes branches on only half of a tree are bare and the other side are full. This would signal that the tree is diseased only on one side in which case could cause a tree to become lopsided and fall due to the weight. If the tree is deciduous check to see if the leaves cling onto the branches in the winter instead of falling off as this is another sign the tree may be dead.

Check for Damaged Roots

While performing a check of the roots to see if they are damaged is not easy there are some factors that could help you guess if the roots could be damaged. An initial sign that a trees’ roots may be damaged is if the tree appears to be leaning to one side or the other. This could mean the tree’s roots are not strong enough to keep it directly upright. If the roots are damaged or weak, epicormic shoots could be present at the base of the trunk. These are sprouts that can pop up and mean that the tree is under severe pressure underneath the ground. There are some other factors that could affect a trees roots both natural and man-made. Things like excavation projects, new construction, shallow root systems, exposure to new extreme elements, or loosened soil compaction. Check to see if any of those are present near the tree area.

Perform Scratch or Break Test

Performing a scratch test is an easy way to tell the health of a tree. Use a small knife to scratch the outside of one of the tree’s branches. If the inside is green and moist the tree is healthy. Try this on a few more branches in different areas of the tree. If they are all green and moist the tree is in good shape. You can also perform a break test which is the same thing except instead of scratching the outside you can attempt to break the branches to check the inside.

How to tell if a tree is dead in the winter

Determining if a tree is dead in the winter is a little bit more difficult because dormant trees can look just like a dead tree. One thing you can look for however is if the tree has buds on the branches. Even in the winter time a tree should show signs of buds. You can also perform the scratch test here as well for further determination.

Why are dead trees an issue?

Aside from being unattractive, a dead tree can be a serious risk to not only humans but to the surrounding natural environment as well. Let’s walk through why it is dangerous to ignore a dead tree.

Disease/insects can spread to other trees

There are many causes of a dead tree but if the tree in question is dead because of disease this can cause serious harm to surrounding trees. Disease as well as insect infested trees can easily spread to nearby trees and exert their power on others resulting in the same fate as the original tree.

Attracts insects/pests

Along with disease spreading to other trees, dead trees tend to attract a lot of unwanted insects and pests. Termites and rats for example love to congregate to a dead tree. And if the tree is close to your house they’ll eventually make your home their own home.

Dead branches falling

A dead tree means dead branches. And dead branches mean weak branches that can randomly fall. Branches can range in size and if a large branch snaps off and falls it can cause serious harm to any pedestrian that happens to be standing below it.

Can fall on hazards

Dead branches can fall on hazardous areas but so too can the entire tree itself. If a tree is extremely fragile it can topple over entirely. Trees that are especially close to things like power lines, cars, houses, or pedestrian areas can wreak havoc and could end up being extremely expensive to remedy. It’s best to take care of them before this happens.

How to determine if a dead tree should be removed

More often than not a dead tree should always be removed. Here’s how to determine if the tree is ok to leave be or if it needs to go.

If it’s in a remote area the tree can be left alone: Dead trees in remote areas can serve as a place for various species of woodpeckers and other wildlife to nest.

If 50% of the tree is damaged, it should be removed: At this point it is probably too far along in the process to be able to revive it.

Near hazardous conditions: If a dead tree is near any sort of hazardous condition it should immediately be removed due to safety concerns

If it could benefit nearby trees’ health: Determine if by removing the tree it will also benefit the health of the surrounding trees in the area. It can often help stymie disease from spreading to the other trees around it.

What to do if you have a dead tree

If you determine that a tree needs to be removed please don’t hesitate to contact us for our expert advice. Our certified arborists will do a thorough inspection to confirm or deny that the tree is indeed dead and discuss your next options as well as give any recommendations. We are aware that trees have great sentimental, aesthetic and environmental value. Our number one priority is to treat and save a tree whenever it is possible. However, when we give you an estimate, we will point out the visible and reasonable dangers as well as offer you the best ways to solve your problem.

If you feel that you need an expert opinion, our quote form takes only seconds to complete. We will contact you about your problem and help you make the best possible decision to get your dead tree removed as quickly as possible!

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How to know if you have a tree in danger of falling during storms


All trees have the potential of falling or losing limbs during wind storms, but there are some things to watch out for that can let you know if trees around your home are more vulnerable.

Experts say many factors can cause weakening of trees, including wood decay, injuries to the tree and shallow root structure.


The roots of trees can be twice the radius of the tree branches, and in many urban areas, roots can end up damaged by construction or hindered by encroachment. Without a strong and expansive root structure, trees are at risk of windthrow, or the uprooting and toppling of the tree.

Large trees growing in shallow or rocky soil that are actually suited to growing in forests are also at risk. Thinning trees that have grown in a group will leave trees that have less capacity to withstand wind.

The taller the tree, the greater the risk of windthrow. Especially when trees are fully leaved, wind on the upper part of the tree can cause the trunk to act like a level, applying force to the lower trunk and roots that can literally tear the tree from the ground.

Previous damage to trees where limbs have been broken off or bark between the trunk or branches has been wounded makes trees susceptible to invasive pests, decay and weakening.

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Large trees growing in shallow soil or in a rocky area may not have the substantial root structure needed to withstand wind.

Though all trees are vulnerable to high winds, experts say some varieties are at greater risk of failure, including Bradford pears, cedar, balsam fir, white spruce, several varieties of pines, sometimes hemlocks, and older water oaks and willow oaks, especially in areas where the soil has been modified or their area has been constricted by construction.

How to inspect a tree for potential risk:

  • Look the tree over from top to bottom, from a distance and close up
  • Check for any dead wood or brown leaves in the crown of the tree. For tall trees, check with binoculars from a distance if you need to.
  • Check for any wounds to the tree caused by previous limb loss
  • A tree that isn’t perfectly straight isn’t necessarily at risk, but if your tree leans heavily, it may be from poor weight distribution or anchor root damage.
  • Trees with multiple trunks or with splits in one trunk may be unstable.
  • Experts say V or U- shaped multiple trunks are weak points for mature trees and are more likely to split with age and when storms occur.
  • Construction near trees, including driveways, walkways, garden or utility line work can damage shallow feeder roots and can destabilize a tree.

Danger signs indicating trees need immediate attention:

  • Cracked or heaving soil, especially on the side opposite of the lean of the tree
  • Cracks in the trunk or at the base of branches that extend deeply or through the trunk
  • Largely exposed roots that were previously covered with soil.
  • Damaged bark
  • Reduced, smaller, or no foliage
  • Premature autumn color
  • Mushrooms, conks, and carpenter ants at the base of the tree are a sign of decay and rot

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If your trees show any of the danger signs, experts recommend contacting a certified arborist to evaluate the risk and take corrective action, especially if the tree is near your home or any other structure, or where you park your vehicle. Some problems can be corrected by an expert, but others will require removal of the tree.

If you have a large tree that is a risk, be sure to move vehicles away from it, and avoid the area of your home that would be damaged if the tree came down.

Important safety note: If you are outside during a wind event and hear any cracking or snapping sounds coming from trees, immediately seek shelter away from the direction the wind may blow a limb or topple a tree.

Is My Tree Dying or Dead? Here’s How to Tell and What You Can Do

You can usually tell when something is off about your tree. After spending so much time admiring it, things like brown leaves or moldy growth stick out like a sore thumb.
It’s a little harder to tell just how much trouble your tree could be in, though. That’s why Bryan, a Davey blog reader from British Columbia reached out. He was “concerned that some of our trees might be dying or in danger of falling on our house or other buildings,” and wanted to know some dying tree symptoms.

A dead or dying tree is nothing to play guessing games with. Take these simple steps to check on your tree and find out just what it needs.

Symptoms Of A Dying Tree

It’s important to know the difference between a dead and a declining tree. Usually, sick trees can be saved, but a dead tree is a huge risk to you and your home.

A few telling symptoms of a dead tree include:

  • Cracks in the trunk or peeling bark
  • Mushrooms growing near the tree’s roots
  • Multiple branches that have no living buds

Below, read about other dead tree symptoms, and find a step-by-step guide to diagnosing your tree.

How To Identify A Dead Tree

Dead trees often have a combination of visible signs. For example, it’s not just that branches aren’t leafing out, but maybe there are also problems with the trunk or unfamiliar growth near the roots.

If you suspect there’s something wrong with your tree, give it a top-to-bottom inspection, and keep an eye out for a mix of concerning symptoms.

How To Tell If A Tree Is Dying

You can help reduce the risks that come with having a dead tree in your yard in just under a minute!

Try this quick test: Using your fingertip or a pocket knife, scratch one of the tree’s twigs. If it’s moist and green underneath, your tree’s alive.

If it’s brown and brittle, use this step-by-step process to inspect the tree:

  1. Scratch a couple more twigs to see if any are fresh green underneath.
  2. See if there are mushrooms or other fungi growing at the tree’s base.
  3. Check the trunk for peeling bark, cracks or splits.
  4. Look up into the canopy for hanging branches or missing leaves.
  5. Taken together, these signs point to a dead tree. If your tree failed the scratch test and you see one or more of these signs, call your arborist as soon as possible to look and remove it if necessary.

How To Save A Dying Tree

If your tree passed the scratch test, that’s great! Now the next step is to find out if and how you can save your sick tree. The most reliable way to do this is to have a certified arborist inspect the tree in person and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you want to learn a bit more about what’s going on before calling, check out these common symptoms of tree stress.

Tree Care Tips For Fall

Giving your tree care that is suitable for the season is a great way to help it recover from decline. Read here for some of the most common fall-related tree care questions and answers.

Here’s How To Tell If A Tree Is Dying

Trees die. That might sound a bit harsh, but dead trees on commercial properties are more common than you might expect.

Our commercial landscape maintenance crews address problem trees for our clients every year. It happens — for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a dying or dead tree is obvious — other times, not so much.

The real question is: How can you tell if a tree is dying on your commercial property?

Tree maintenance is a commercial landscape service HighGrove offers, so we know firsthand what the symptoms of a dying tree look like. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of key indicators of dead and dying trees so you can address the problem sooner rather than later.

After all, a dead or dying tree on your commercial property won’t fix itself. And the longer you let it go, the worse things can get for you, the property and its tenants.

Trunk Damage

Are there vertical cracks on the tree in question? Severe damage to the trunk of a tree can greatly affect the likelihood of your tree’s survival. In addition to any cracks or seams on the trunk, take a look at the bark on the tree — or lack thereof.

When a tree ages, old bark will fall off on its own and eventually be replaced by a new layer of bark if the tree is healthy. If new bark doesn’t reappear and areas of smooth wood remain, this can be an indicator your tree’s health is on the decline.

Bare Branches

How are the tree’s branches looking? One warning sign is if the branches are bare during a time of the year when they should be covered in leaves. Also keep in mind that on dead branches of deciduous trees, dead leaves will cling well into the winter instead of dropping to the ground as they would on a healthy deciduous tree.

And dead branches relegated to one side of a tree can also indicate serious trunk and root damage.

Damaged Roots

Since roots can run very deep underground, determining if your tree’s roots are damaged isn’t always easy or visible. Recent excavation projects, new construction, a shallow root system, exposure to extreme elements and poor soil compaction are all things that can affect the vitality of a tree’s roots.

One serious sign of root damage is a sudden and noticeable lean to the tree. Another is if you begin to notice small branches sprouting from the trunk at the base of the tree. This type of branching is known as epicormic shoots and these can represent that the tree is under severe stress.


Large fungus — shelf or bracket fungus (aka wood conchs) — on the trunk or branch of a tree can indicate that your tree is experiencing internal rot and anything beyond the fungus may be dead or dying.


Has your commercial property taken on some new construction? Were some but not all of the trees in or around the construction area removed? Those trees spared may be experiencing a significant increase in their exposure to sun and wind, which can detrimental to their health.

Nearby construction can also damage roots, soil compaction and changes in the grading.

Why Are Dying Trees A Problem For Commercial Properties?

Sure, dead trees can look unattractive, but problems from dead and dying trees on your commercial property are far from superficial. Here are four costly dead-tree problems that go beyond looks.

  • Dead branches can fall without warning and cause serious injury and property damage.

  • Diseased or insect infected trees can spread to other trees on your property.

  • Dead trees also attract insects and other unwanted pests (termites and rats).

  • Dying, leaning trees can unexpectedly target structures, power lines, cars in parking lots and pedestrians on walkways.

Identify Dead Trees With HighGrove’s Commercial Landscape Maintenance Team

Are you still unsure how to tell if a tree is dying and interested in a second opinion? Our certified arborists will perform a complete tree assessment targeting anything that is either an immediate concern or something that should be addressed in the near future. We will target trees that are in decay and could be at risk of falling if the conditions are right.

Give HighGrove Partners a call at 678-298-0550 or use our simple contact form to set up a meeting with our commercial landscape maintenance services department. In the meantime, for more commercial landscape and tree maintenance tips, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

Images: Dead tree, Fungus

Diseases and Insect Infections to Watch for In Your Cottonwood and Elm Trees

Cottonwood and elm are both beautiful, fast-growing deciduous trees. The tall stately appearance of either tree can be an attractive complement to any landscape. Unfortunately, there are diseases and insects which plague these trees.

Slime Flux

This bacterial infection gets its name from the frothy slime that oozes out of the tree bark after infection. The ‘foam’ dries leaving a dry scum.
Wounds in the bark provide the source of entry. Weed eaters, improper pruning or even the family cat can break the bark. The bacteria enters the tree through these wounds.

The type of slime flux that targets the heartwood of the tree is of most concern in cottonwood and elm. In heartwood infections, the bacterial digestion of the wood creates internal pressures up to 60 lbs./sq. in. In most cases this pressure is relieved through a crack in the bark. The oozing slime is the first evidence that the bacteria is fermenting the cellulose of the tree. The bark dies as the bacteria infected slime infects it. The slime also kills any grass it comes in contact with.

The life of the tree may be extended if a certified arborist drills a hole in the infection site and inserts a pvc pipe into the tree. The pipe allows the slime to drain away from the tree even though it doesn’t cure the infection.

The bacterial flux that infects the cambium and bark layers produces a foul smelling slime. If caught early, the tree may be saved. A certified arborist can excise the infected sections. Once more than half of the tree trunk is involved, complete removal of the tree is usually the only choice.

Aphids, Scale & Mealybug

All three of these insect pests are sucking insects which feed on plant juices. They infect the new, tender growth of the tree.

Aphids like cottonwood, especially if there is a local ant population as well. The trees will start ‘dripping’ with a sap-like liquid. The best way to treat for aphids is to spray with insecticidal soap and put out ant traps that use boric acid.

Scale and mealybug are more difficult to eradicate. If regular treatments with insecticidal soap don’t clear up the infestation, it may be necessary to remove the infected portions of the tree. This is an operation best performed by a certified arborist.


There are a number of borers which are attack cottonwood and elm. Signs of an infestation include shoots that turn black, shrivel and then die. The larvae burrow into the phloem which can severely damage young or stressed trees.

Leaf Beetles

The cottonwood leaf beetle is 1/4-inch long. The beetle can completely defoliate a cottonwood tree.

The elm leaf beetle is especially prolific. If warm weather continues long enough into the fall, three generations of beetles may hatch in one year. Both adults and larvae eat the underside of the leaves. The leaves then dry up and then drop.

Consult with a certified arborist if you suspect a leaf beetle infestation. Prevention and control can save more than your tree. It can also reduce problems with beetles moving into your home for shelter in the winter.

How can I tell if my backyard tree is diseased or dead?

  • Dead wood: Dead wood looks dry and lifeless and breaks very easily. Because it’s brittle and can’t bend in the wind like a healthy branch, it’s likely to break. For this reason, dead branches, also called widow makers, need to be removed immediately because they’re very dangerous.
  • Cracks and cankers: Cracks are deep splits through the bark, and they usually indicate that a tree is failing. Cankers are holes where the bark is missing; they increase the chance of a stem breaking near the canker.
  • Weak branch unions: Weak branch unions are areas where branches aren’t securely attached to the tree. This happens when two branches grow closely together and bark grows between them. The bark isn’t as strong as wood, and it weakens the union of the branches.
  • Decay: Trees usually decay from the inside out, so it can be tough to notice initially. Fungi, like mushrooms, are good indicators, as is soft or crumbly wood.
  • Poor tree architecture: Poor tree architecture means an uneven growth pattern, indicated by lopsided or leans in a particular direction. This is usually caused by years of damage from storms or improper pruning.

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How to Bring a Dying Tree Back to Life: 5 Tips To Save Your Dying Tree

By: David Bailey – May 1, 2019

Trees can take a turn for the worse just like any other creature.

If you’re ardent about your arbor, though, and keep a close eye on them, you might just save their life! There are many diseases and infections that can threaten the health of your tree, but most can be cured. In dire cases, though, it’s best to contact a professional.

Let’s take a look at how to bring a dying tree back to life.

Signs of a Dying Tree

It can be pretty tough to distinguish between a dying tree and a dead tree. In most cases, you’ll want to opt for tree removal as it’s probably already too far gone.

Keep a lookout for these 5 tell-tale signs that your tree is in danger.

1. Barren Branches

Trees losing their leaves to fall foliage is completely normal.

When they lose their leaves during other times of the year—watch out! This is a sign that your tree is sick.

Make sure that your trees have full coverage, and that the leaves look healthy. Often an ill tree can appear full in some areas, while other branches are skeletal.

Trees need leaves to produce energy for themselves. This is a process called photosynthesis. When the trees get ill and lose their leaves, they lose their means of food. It’s a downhill battle when your tree starts to lose its leaves.

2. Dried-up Wood

The outer layer of the trunk and branches, called bark, is like skin for a tree.

When the tree is not finding proper hydration, the bark can appear brittle and cracked. This extreme dryness is not a good sign.

Cankers are patches of dead bark that can pop up on trees. They’re like canker sores for humans: painful sores caused by stress. The stress is usually caused by bacteria or fungi that infect the tree through exposed bark.

Also, brittle trunks and branches have less flexibility to them. This can cause more strain on the tree every time the wind blows.

3. Decaying

By the time you notice decay, it may already be too late.

Decay becomes obvious with the growth of mushrooms or other fungi on the trunk or branches. If it’s on the branch, it’s not a terrible problem but it’ll still need treatment. If it’s on the trunk, however…

Trees decay from the inside out, starting from the center. This is like the spinal cord of the tree, so when it goes the rest is soon to follow.

4. Cracks on Trunks

Some cracks are normal, but other cracks run too deep.

Cracked bark leaves the tree exposed to invading insects, molds, and fungi. This can cause further deterioration if the tree’s defenses remain exposed.

Deep cracks need to be treated before pests can fester. They start out as a minor cut, but like an infection, things can tumble downhill if the tree is not treated before the illness takes hold.

5. Weak Tree Structure

The roots are the anchor of the tree.

When trees become sick, their roots can often suffer the loss of some of their strength. This weakens the tree’s ability to maintain its posture and composure in the soil.

Then, your tree might start leaning or drooping over awkwardly to the side. This can exacerbate the issue. The pull of gravity will weigh the tree down until it uproots out from the earth beneath it.

Trees or branches that fall can, obviously, be a huge liability. Especially during a storm when conditions are severe. Don’t even risk it with dying branches, just have them pruned. Trees in this condition will need structural support during treatment, or risk termination.

How to Bring a Dying Tree Back to Life

Like any medical condition, diagnosis is best done by trained professionals. Still, it’s good to be in the know in case you spot something.

If you’re interested in more information about what could be ailing your tree, here are the top 5, most common illnesses your tree might face.

1. Dutch Elm’s Diseases

This disease has spread across Elm trees all over North America.

Ascomycete microfungi are the killer component of this infection. The spores spread like wildfire on the backs of bark beetles or through the roots of nearby afflicted trees.

A tell-tale sign is a wilting of the leaves and a pale yellowing of the branches. These begin from the crown of the tree to the base. Eventually, the branches will turn brown and dry up.

The best way to treat this infestation is to cut out the infected areas from the crown down. There are also therapeutic fungicide injections you can administer to aid in recovery. Treatment is likely to be successful if caught early.

2. American Chestnut Blight

A pathogen by the name of cryphonectria parasitica causes this disease.

The appearance of strange, orange-colored spots can be noticed on the branches and trunk of the sick tree. Under the right humidity, these spots will reproduce and release yellow spores into the air.

Also, a canker that seems to sink into the trunk can form. These can lead to trunk girdle, causing further issues.

Treatment involves either a soil compress method or hypovirulence transfer. Consult a professional to carry out these procedures before it’s too late!

3. Fire Blight

Trees affected with this illness appear blackened and shriveled, as if burned by wildfire. Without ever having touched a flame.

This disease is caused by a contagious pathogen known as erwinia amylovora. It mostly afflicts fruit trees like apple, pear, crabapple, et cetera, as well as some berry bushes.

Experts recommend that the affected area be cut off immediately, as soon as the first symptoms are noticed. Also, spray an antibiotic made from terramycin or streptomycin all over the tree and surrounding area. This extra precaution should ensure the survival of your trees.

4. Powdery Mildew

This disease is brought on by a variety of fungi belonging to the Ersiphales order.

It requires extreme humidity to flourish, but when it does it can take over the whole backyard. The fungi appear as a white, powdery layer that covers leaves, branches, and pretty much everything else it touches. It will start at the base of the tree spread until it swallows everything.

Experts suggest treating the whole area with fungicides like propiconazole or triademefon. This should terminate the fungus and protect the area.

5. Sudden Oak Death

A pathogen by the name of phytophthora ramorum is the cause of this disease.

Primary symptoms will appear as a splitting of bark that oozes dark, brown sap. The tree foliage will start to turn pale and wilt away, until falling prematurely.

Experts recommend spraying a mixture of phosphonate and surfactant on the trunk. Recovery should occur after about five weeks.

If All Else Fails…

Call the tree doctors.

They can assess your tree properly and determine the right course of action.

Sometimes, though, there’s no way of knowing how to bring a dying tree back to life. Death waits for no tree. If that’s the case, it’s best to remove the tree before it falls and hurts somebody.

Alberta Arborists has over 22 years of experience in offering quality service for ethical tree care. We cater to residential, commercial, and municipal areas in Alberta with quality workmanship.

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