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Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out how to tell if a tree is dying. Even a healthy-looking tree can be having some serious issues, and could be in risk of dying. Pests, malnutrition, lack of sunlight – all of these issues can damage a tree’s structural integrity, add to dying tree symptoms, and still remain mostly invisible to the untrained eye.

So we’ve put together some of the basics on why dying trees are a problem – and how to tell if a tree is dying, common sick tree symptoms, and advice both for tree restoration and tree removal.

Why Are Dying Trees a Problem?

“Is my tree dying?” you may wonder – but you also may wonder why a dying tree is a problem – why not just let a tree die without removing it, or bother trying to nurse it back to health?

For both residential and commercial property owners, dying trees present some serious risks that can only be mitigated if you know how to tell if a tree is dying. These risks include:

  • Dead branches can fall without warning, causing personal injury or property damage
  • Diseases from dying trees can quickly spread throughout your property to other trees
  • Rats, termites, and other pests are attracted to dying trees
  • If an entire dying tree falls, it can destroy cars, power lines, homes, and other structures, and pose a risk to pedestrians.

So whether you’re looking for a tree removal service for your dying tree, or want to attempt restoration of your dying tree, it’s important that you understand how to recognize a dying tree – before it’s too late.

Learning how to tell if a tree is dying can save you money, time, and hassle, and prevent further damage to your property.

1. Structural Defects (Trunk, Limbs)

Structural defects are a key indicator of tree health, and a tree that has many structural defects that continue to advance in intensity is probably at risk of dying. Here are some common structural defects on the trunk and limbs of trees that you can look for, if you’re trying to learn how to tell if a tree is dying.

    • Advanced decay in wood – is the wood punky, dry, or crumbly? Are there large cavities in the trunk? Trees usually decay from the inside out, so if there are clear signs of decay on the exterior of a tree, this is a sure sign of a dying tree.
    • Large cracks in the tree – cracks indicate poor tree health, and can pose risks if limbs crack and fall off of a dying tree.
  • A lean of more than 15 degrees – Healthy root systems and wood will keep trees growing relatively upright. A heavy lean can indicate poor tree health, and pose a risk if the tree falls after decaying. 
  • Dead twigs, branches, or small, weak leafing – dead leaves, dying branches, and brittle twigs are prime indicators that a tree is struggling to survive.

2. Damaged Roots

Damaged roots can be a cause of tree death – even an otherwise healthy tree can die quickly if its roots are interrupted or damaged severely. Damaged roots are a key indicator if you’re attempting to learn how to tell if a tree is dying.

However, it’s not always easy to determine if roots are damaged, as they run very deeply underground. If there has recently been an excavation project or construction project in the area, or the roots have been exposed by the elements by a large storm or erosion, you may be able to tell that your tree has damaged roots.

A primary sign of root damage is a noticeable lean to the tree, as mentioned above. A tree lean usually happens when a tree is uprooted by wind or other environmental factors – and it’s usually impossible for a larger tree to recover from this, so you’ll need to remove it.

Epicormic shoots – tiny branches that sprout from the base of the tree – also indicate tree damage, and can indicate that the root system has been severely damaged.

3. Bare Branches

Healthy trees have healthy leaves. If your tree is bare even through spring and summer months, you have a dying tree on your hands – this is one of the easiest ways you can learn how to tell if a tree is dying.

how to tell if a tree is dying

It’s also important to note that, if your tree is dying, dead leaves won’t drop in the fall. If your tree has a large amount of dead leaves that still cling to the branches during the autumn and winter, it’s likely dying.

If these bare branches are located on only one side of the tree, this can be a sign of severe trunk or root damage that has already killed part of the tree.

4. Fungus

Where there is decay, there is fungus – so the growth of mushrooms and other fungus on a tree is an indicator that a tree is rotting from the inside-out. Large shelf fungus can often grow on a tree even when the outside of the bark looks relatively healthy, but rest assured – if there is fungus growing from your tree, it’s rotting and dying.

Fungus is a very easy indicator that can show you how to tell if a tree is dying, so you should make a point to inspect a suspicious tree, and look for signs of fungal growth.

If Your Tree Is Dying, Take Action With The Help of Tree Removal Services

Whether you’re looking for tree removal Virginia services, or you have a dying tree in any other state, removing a dying tree is often the only solution to your problem. A dying tree can pose many risks to your property and your other trees, as noted above, so it’s important that you know how to tell if a tree is dying, and can remove the dead tree, if necessary.

Dying trees aren’t always doomed, but it’s usually much easier (and cheaper) to simply remove a dying tree instead of nursing it back to health. And large trees are often quite difficult or dangerous to remove on your own – especially if they are in advanced stages of decay.

So after you learn how to tell if a tree is dying, survey your property and remove any dead or dying trees that you may have encountered.

Whether you’re a commercial or residential property owner, learning how to tell if a tree is dying can help you protect your property, the people who live in it, and the rest of your healthy trees.

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