Is My Tree Dead? Signs It's Time to Let Go

Have you asked yourself, is my tree dead? If there's a tree on your property that is not looking its best, it may be time to do a thorough assessment. While some trees can live for thousands of years, not every tree can be so lucky, and it's important to know what to look for.

If you're wondering if you have a troubled tree on your hands, here's how to tell if a tree is dead or alive!

Your Tree Leans 

If your tree leans beyond 15% from a vertical, upright position, it may be in poor health. This is one of the clearest visual clues that something is not right with your tree.

With that said, it's important to note that some trees have a more natural and organic shape, to begin with. A leaning trunk in a live oak tree, for instance, could be harder to spot. So know what kind of tree you have in order to make a more accurate assessment.

In some instances, it is possible to straighten a leaning tree. But in most instances, a telltale sign of a sick tree is a trunk that doesn't sit at a 90-degree angle.

Check with an arborist to see if your tree's lean means that it is sick — and determine whether it presents a threat to falling on nearby property or people.

Fewer Leaves On the Branches

We expect the leaves to fall in autumn and return in the spring, but sometimes that natural cycle of life doesn't happen for a tree. Keep tabs on whether the trees on your property are shedding leaves and not seeing them return. That could be a sign that something is wrong.

When late summer rolls around, check your tree to see if its canopy is full. Even the trees that are slowest to develop new leaves should be full by August.

And don't overlook any evergreen trees on your property. These trees don't follow the same cycle as deciduous trees, so problems will manifest themselves differently.

Yellow or brown needles, especially further away from the trunk, could be a sign that your evergreen tree is not doing well. And if you see needles falling or notice bare spots on the tree, you should check with the experts.

Cracks and Irregularities in the Bark

Tree bark should look textured and rustic, but it shouldn't look cracked, weathered, and sickly. You'll want to wander around your tree and investigate the appearance of the bark to gain more insight into your tree's health.

Look for deep, dark cracks or new cavities in the bark. Also, look for patches where the bark is thin or scuffed up, or even peeling away. A few areas of irregularities on your tree trunk are not a reason to be alarmed, but if the problem is more widespread it's wise to take action.

The Roots Look Problematic

When you're looking at a tree, the first instinct is to look up at the leafy canopy overhead. After all, the protective shade and beauty of the leaves are what we love about trees!

But be sure to look down, too, and assess the roots of your tree. Roots can be another visible clue that something is wrong with your tree.

If you see fungus on the roots, it could mean that your tree is sick. Similarly, newly-sprouting mushrooms can be an indicator of poor tree health. The fungus can lead to other problems that spread to other trees on your property, so address the issue soon!

And if you notice that the roots appear to be lifted above the ground beneath them, that's a sign that you should contact a certified arborist to get an expert opinion. Tree roots should be firmly embedded within the ground.

An Abundance of Dead Branches 

The last thing you want on a tree is a bunch of dead branches. Dead branches are ones that are brittle and snap easily when you try to bend them. They look bad, they could cause injury or damage if they fall — and they may indicate that your tree is dead.

Tree trimming can remove branches to keep your tree attractive and safe, but make sure to ask your arborist if there is a bigger issue causing the problem. Too many dead branches may mean that a bigger step — tree removal — is necessary.

Not sure if your branches are dead? Do what many experts call the "scratch test." Simply scratch away the top layer on a branch, and if you see a healthy green color beneath it you'll know that the branch is alive.

Is My Tree Dead?

When it comes to knowing how to tell if a tree is dead or alive, the initial responsibility rests with you. Take pictures of your tree if you suspect any changes and watch for additional changes over time. Stay vigilant so that you can take action before a tree causes injury or damage — or causes the trees around it to deteriorate!

Your arborist will be able to determine if your tree is salvageable and take care of the tree removal safely and efficiently. If needed, an arborist will also be able to suggest some preventative measures to keep other trees on your property healthy.

The Bottom Line

Are you still wondering, is my tree dead? It's a sad moment when you realize that a stately tree on your property is on the decline, but you want to make sure you take the proper next steps. 

When you need help determining if you have a dead tree on your hands, contact us and we are happy to help you take care of the situation!

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