Thursday, April 13, 2023

How to Tell if a Tree Is Dying

Signs of a dying tree include loss of foliage and dieback

Need help figuring out if your tree is dying and what to do about it? Recognizing the signs of a dying tree will help you get professional help to save or remove it before it falls, causing catastrophic damage or harm. gathered the following information and signs of a troubled or dying tree and what you can do to help or remove it.

What Causes a Tree to Die

While trees may appear impervious to severe weather and their surroundings, there are several factors that can cause a tree’s decline and death. These factors include death from the following:

  • Its environment
  • Drought
  • Harmful insects and diseases
  • A catastrophic event or impact
  • A lightning strike
  • Severe weather events (causing blowdown, windthrow, or windsnap)
  • Age-related collapse (starvation)
  • Timber harvesting
Signs of a dying tree include brittle branches and twigs

Note: Sudden tree death can occur from Armillaria root rot, fatal fungal diseases, or drought.

Signs of a Dying Tree

Property owners often see a concerning tree and wonder is my tree dying? Some fail to follow through when they disregard the warning signs. You can prevent catastrophic damages by learning the signs of a dying tree and how to respond to them. These are the most obvious warning signs that a tree is dying:

1. Leaning Tree – Leaning trees may signal damaged or dying roots, structural imbalance, or failure of soil structure. When a tree is leaning more than 15 degrees, this is typically a result of wind (storm) or root damage and is unlikely to recover.

Recommendation: Hire a professional tree service to evaluate the tree’s condition. Leaning trees can sometimes be preserved by cabling or bracing them. However, most leaning trees must be removed.

2. Root Damage – Construction, digging, trenching, and landscaping projects often disrupt or compact the soil around a tree, causing distress or root death. Severe damage can also occur from lawnmowers or weed eaters if you get too close to the trunk or roots.

Recommendation: Consider the following preventive measures:

  • Protect the soil (and roots) within the tree’s drip line by applying a 2 to 3-inch layer of organic mulch.
  • Prevent foot, vehicle, and equipment traffic beneath the tree.
  • Keep digging and trenching activities from disturbing or severing roots.
  • Never allow equipment or material storage under a tree.

Note: If roots have been damaged or severed, have the tree inspected to determine restorative measures or removal.

3. Bark is peeling or falling off – Diseases like hypoxylon canker and boring insects can cause sufficient damage in a tree’s cambium layer to cause its bark to fall off. These pests are opportunistic, typically attacking already distressed trees.

Recommendation: Have a professional tree service inspect the tree to determine what is happening to the tree, how to prevent nearby trees from being infected, and if the tree should be removed.

4. Mushrooms Growing on Trunk or Roots – When mushrooms grow from a tree trunk or roots there is typically extensive decay occurring in its heartwood. Mushrooms are the fruiting structure of most fungi and should be addressed soon as they are seen around a tree trunk or roots.

Signs of a dying tree include mushroom growth on the trunk and roots

Recommendation: When caught early, you can save the tree by pruning infected limbs. You can also apply fungicides if the disease hasn’t spread. However, prevention is the best solution. Proper watering, sunlight, mulching, fertilizing, and fungicide applications can help prevent fungal infections.

Note: When mushrooms appear on a tree, it is often too late to save the tree. Seek immediate professional help.

5. Brittle and Fallen Branches – Frequently seeing sticks or twigs on the ground and brittle or weak tree branches may be a sign of diseased or dead branches, which could signal the majority of the tree is already dead. This symptom may be caused by drought stress, over-fertilization, pest infestations, or disease.

Recommendation: Have your tree evaluated ASAP. With professional help, you might save your tree.

6. Oddly-Shaped or Chlorotic Foliage – Oddly-shaped or discolored tree leaves typically represents a soil or root problem. It may signal severe root rot or be an insect infestation.

Recommendation: Ensure your soil isn’t mismatched with your tree (nutrients, pH, etc.) by testing the soil (contact an arborist or local university extension). If it’s not a soil issue, consult a tree professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Learning to Identify Dying Trees

In this article, you discovered how to recognize the signs of a dying tree, when to remove it, and what actions to take to save it or prevent further decline.

Knowing how to identify a dying tree will help you take prompt action to either save or remove it.

Failure to recognize when a tree is troubled or dying will leave your property and well-being at risk if the tree starts shedding limbs, collapses, or falls.


Todd’s Marietta Tree Services

Marietta, GA
(678) 505-0266

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