It can be sad when a tree you have long enjoyed in your landscape seems to be in bad shape. But when you have a dead or dying tree in your yard, it is also a falling hazard to your family and any guests on your property. How do you know when a tree is beyond saving and should be removed? Read on to learn some of the easiest ways to identify the signs that your tree may be dying — or worse, it is already dead. 

How to Test for Tree Death

Your tree can die for many reasons, including stress from the elements, diseases, fungi, age, excessive or improperly placed mulch, or insects. If you suspect any of these has damaged your tree, there are ways you can find out. 

One way to test your tree for signs of impending doom is by performing the scratch test, which involves removing a small strip of bark from the tree with a knife or your fingernail and inspecting the color of the cambium bark layer underneath. You should perform this test in various places on the tree to confirm the accuracy of the results. If the cambium tissue is green and moist, there is hope for your tree. If not, your tree’s prognosis is grim. 

Tell-Tale Signs of Your Tree’s Demise

In addition to the symptoms below, some common signs your tree is dying are dryness, mushrooms growing near its roots, cracks in its trunks, or branches hanging from its canopy.

Browned or Brittle Bark

If your tree has places where it is missing chunks or bark, or you notice that the existing bark is discolored or falls off easily, these are indicators that your tree is likely dying. 

Leaf Changes

If you do not see vibrant, healthy green leaves on your tree during its growing season, it may be because the tree is dying. Similarly, if your tree’s leaves become discolored during the spring or summer, this is not a good sign of life for your tree. 

Pest Infestation

Some insect species prefer to nest in a dying space, so if you notice bark beetles or carpenter ants in your tree, there is a good chance it is dying. 

Root Damage

If you have recently completed any construction projects near your trees, or if your trees have shallow root systems, watch them for decline that could be due to root damage. Root damage can cause:

  • Wilted, discolored leaves
  • Lack of growth
  • Thin foliage
  • Yellow, small leaves
  • Dead branches 
  • Slimy-feeling roots

Deadwood or Leaning

Seeing some dead wood on your tree can be normal, but if there is a great deal, it can be a sign that your tree is dying. Similarly, a tree that has been affected by wind or root damage can develop a lean of more than 15 degrees and is unlikely to be able to recover fully. 

How to Help Your Trees Thrive

Fortunately, you can take a few steps to give your trees the best chance at survival. 

  • Be familiar with your trees’ unique species-specific requirements for care
  • Plant your trees in an appropriate location in the recommended soil
  • Water and fertilize carefully 
  • Prune regularly to cut away death or infection 
  • Engage professional inspections and maintenance by an arborist 

Gaston’s Removed the Danger of Dying Trees From Your Yard 

If you are unsure whether your tree is dying, the expert arborists at Gaston’s Tree Service can inspect and diagnose your trees, providing advice to save your tree if it is possible. If, however, your tree is a danger and must be removed, Gaston’s team can expertly and safely cut the tree down so you can get back to enjoying the beauty of your yard. Contact us today to ensure the health of all of your trees.