A big beautiful tree is part of the family. We couldn’t imagine not having it around. It provides shade in summer, breathtaking colors in fall, and after the cold winter has blown its course, buds of new life in spring. But trees, like all living things, are mortal, and will come to their last days.
An unhealthy tree is pretty obvious, but the difference between a dead tree and one that is merely sick is more difficult to tell. If you are hoping that your tree is still hanging on, you may miss signs that it’s gone, and that its body remains behind as a serious hazard.
Here are some signs your tree has passed away.
Trees don’t grow perfectly straight, but if a tree has seemed to lean in the past year or months, or even week, be very wary. A leaning tree is a sign that the roots have rotted. A tree with no roots will fall over. Check the ground around the leaning tree and if it seems to buckle on the side opposite the lean, it’s a sign that the roots have rotted and the tree is slowly falling.
If there are many dead branches on the ground around the tree, there are probably more up in the tree. But be careful. A branch that has broken off, and is hanging suspended from other living branches may fall at any moment. Many dead branches indicate that the tree is dead at the core.
Cracks or wounds
If a tree is split down the middle, it is in danger. A skilled Arborist (tree doctor) will be able to tell you if the tree is truly gone.
If a tree has dead leaves clinging to its branches during the winter you should be concerned. A healthy tree will drop its leaves in winter. In summer, when a tree should have leaves, if less than one third of the tree is covered in leaves, it’s a sign the tree is dead or dying.
If a tree has large sections of bare “skin” without bark, it’s a sign of death. Healthy trees shed their bark throughout the year. However, when they shed their bark, new bark grows beneath. If a tree sheds its bark, and what you see underneath is not new bark, but bare tree or fungus, your tree could be dead. Even if the bark is not peeling, you should check it. Scrape a layer of bark off a small twig. If the skin is green beneath, that tree branch is alive.
If a tree has shelf fungus along the trunk, that’s a sign that there’s rot beneath. Certain fungi get into the tree’s heart and rot it away. Fungus along branches indicate those branches are dead and rotten, and must be removed.
A dead tree is dangerous, and must be removed by professionals. It’s sad to see it go, but you need not leave the spot empty. Consider planting a young sapling. With proper care, the new little tree will become as dear as the old one, and will bless generations long to come.