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How Do You Know if a Tree is Dying?



The biggest mistake the average homeowner makes when buying a home or owning a home is that they don’t look up! Every once in a while when you are out working in your yard, whether it’s cutting your grass or pulling weeds, look up at your trees. A lot of people don’t realize that trees and landscaping add value to your property and help cool down your home in the summer. Knowing what to look for when looking at your trees is important. You could avoid falling trees and branches that could damage your house or even a person.

The first thing that you want to look at is the base of the tree where it meets the soil, or root flare of the tree. We can’t see what’s going on underground so we have to look at the part of the tree that is keeping it standing. Take notice too if you see any saw dust or carpenter ants going up and down. The saw dust and the ants are a good indication that somewhere on that tree is some wood decay. If the tree has wood decay that also could mean that the tree might have some other things wrong with it that you can’t see like other insect problems and disease. If the tree doesn’t have a root flare, it could mean that someone in the past might have re-graded your property and put too much topsoil over the roots and the root flare. In time, this will cause the tree to decline because the trees feeding roots, which are in the first 10-12” of the soil are now covered. This will then prevent the tree from getting water and nutrients. When looking at the root flare, take notice for mushrooms or any type of fungus that is growing on the bark. Mushrooms grow on decaying wood. This is one of the best ways to tell if your tree is dying.

The trunk of the tree supports the weight of all the branches. Take a look at the bark and trunk of the tree. Look for holes, cracks and peeling bark. If the trunk of the tree is starting to decline, that will weaken the entire integrity of the tree. Wherever you see an area of the tree without bark, then that means that side of the tree is not getting any nutrients. The tree’s transportation vessels for nutrients are underneath the bark.

If you are cutting the grass and every week you have to pick up branches, then there is a good chance that the tree needs a little tree trimming. Sometimes it is a little harder to tell in the winter if you have any dead in the tree. If you know what you are looking for you will be able to spot some dead limbs. The best time to evaluate a tree is in the spring when the leaves come on. Look up into the canopy for branches with no leaves. If more then 1/3 of the tree does not have leaves then that is a sign that the tree might have to be removed. If you are not sure, find a reputable tree service company like American Arborist Tree Service in your area and call them to have one of their ISA certified Arborist come out and take a look. Most companies do not charge for this service.

Charlie Soboleski Certified Arborist