How to Identify a Dead Tree in Your Yard

While it might seem easy, it is actually pretty difficult for homeowners to spot a dead or dying tree. Many think that dead trees suddenly stop growing, and that’s it. Even though this may be true for most plants, a dead tree is harder to spot, especially when you don’t know what signs to look for.

At Tree Menders, removal of a tree is always the last option. We want to be 100% sure that there is no other solution to save a tree and restore its health before we make the cut.

In this post, we’ll talk about a few hints that suggest your tree is unhealthy and might be dying.

Why Do Trees Die?

Trees can withstand many elements, weather changes, and damaging factors that are present in their surroundings. However, all trees eventually die, some sooner than others. While age is probably the most common cause of tree death, other conditions can also cause your tree to deteriorate.

For healthy trees that live to old age, there is a slow dying process that may take years to complete. After some time, a mature tree in a forest falls to become the soil and nutrients for new trees.

Disease and Insects
Certain diseases such as chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease may cause sudden death to trees. Besides these, trees are also susceptible to oak wilt, Armillaria root rot, and anthracnose, which may invade the tree through roots, leaves, and wounds. These diseases will damage the support structure if not treated on time.

Insects can also invade trees. Insects can not only cause tree death but also spread diseases to surrounding trees. Some of the most common insects that cause tree death are emerald ash borers, gypsy moths, and pine beetles.

Stressful Environment
Living conditions and regular maintenance can play huge roles in trees’ health. If your tree lives in a dry area, it may die due to the lack of water. Besides the dry environment, salty soils, ground pollution, cold spots, or extreme sun heating also may cause stress to trees.

Growing a healthy and strong tree requires proper care. Before planting, be sure to research your tree’s tolerance to weather conditions. Some trees adapt well to any environmental condition, while others require special treatments.

How Long Can Trees Live?

Like animals, the average age of trees depends on their types. If a tree has enough air, water, food, and other necessary nutrients, then it can live to the end of its species’ lifespan. Some of the shorter-lived trees are palms, which can live up to 50 years; the persimmon, which has a lifespan of 60 years; and the black willow, which can survive for 75 years.

The famous Alaska red cedar can live up to 3,500 years, sequoias are estimated to live over 3,000 years, and the Bristlecone pine can last over 5,000 years.

Ornamental trees have shorter life spans – from 15-20 years.

How Do You Identify a Dead Tree?

The first thing to do is to inspect your tree. A few signs will tell if your tree is dead and needs to be removed as soon as possible.

When inspecting your tree, look for cracks. These may be splits in the tree bark, and in some cases, they can be difficult to identify. Deep cracks may lead to serious issues or imply the tree is failing.

Odd Shape
A healthy tree is a straight tree. Trees leaning 15 degrees away from their optimal position aren’t doing well. Once you notice your tree is losing its form, take precautions and help your tree get back in its original position. If you let the problem go untreated, over time, you may notice that your tree is leaning too much to overcome. The problem with an otherwise odd shape and leaning position are due to root damage.

Signs of Decay
Decay is very hard to spot, especially in the early phases. However, some hints suggest your tree is breaking down. Rotten stems or branches are the first signs of decay, as are cavities and mushroom-like spores on roots. All these signs indicate that your tree isn’t in its best shape.

If you can’t find any of these signs, you can perform other tests to determine the health of your tree.

Trunk Damage
When inspecting your tree, look for vertical cracks. If the trunk has damage, the tree’s overall health is endangered. Also, check to see if your tree has intact bark. Missing bark indicates your tree isn’t strong enough to replace it and is more susceptible to disease and insects. Older trees and trunks with severe damage suggest that your tree may be dead.

Bare Branches
Bare branches in spring or summer are a common sign of a dying tree. Sometimes, branches are half full of leaves and half bare, which means your tree is partly diseased and may fall due to the weight. If you have deciduous trees, check to see if the leaves stay on the branches in the winter season instead of falling off, as that may be another sign your tree is dead.

The Scratch Test
Performing the good ol’ scratch test is an easy way to determine the tree’s health. Take a small knife to scratch the outside of the branches. If the inside is green and wet, it means the tree is healthy. Make sure to try this method on a few branches to confirm the tree is healthy.

What Do You Do When You Spot a Dead Tree?

As you can see, there are a few ways to identify a dead tree in your yard. If you suspect your tree is dead or is unhealthy, consult with your local lawn care company for confirmation.

A lawn care expert will inspect the tree. If the tree has died, it is vital to find a safe solution to remove it from your property.

Why Is It Important to Remove Dead Trees?

Aside from being useless and unattractive, a dead tree can pose a serious risk to you, your family, pets, and property.

Here is why it is not a good idea to keep a dead tree:

  • Insects can spread to other surrounding trees –  When a tree becomes infected or infested, diseases and insects can spread to the healthy trees in your yard or garden.
  • Attracts pests – Dead trees tend to attract unwanted insects and pests, for example, termites and rats. Get rid of a dead tree quickly to avoid creating a welcoming environment for pests.
  • Endangers your safety – Dry branches from a dead tree can fall and hurt you or your family or anyone passing nearby. The entire dead tree could fall on your home or the home of a neighbor.

If you are looking for a professional tree removal service in Toronto, Markham, Mississauga or anywhere around Greater Toronto Area, Tree Menders is your best option. We provide safe procedures and efficient solutions. Call today and we will get your dead tree off your property as quickly as possible.