Early Signs Of A Dying Tree

2 February 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Most trees don't die out of the blue; the problems start out small before flaring up into serious issues. Like most problems, early intervention can restore the health of a dying tree. However, you can only intervene if you know that your tree is dying. Here are some of the areas that may contain symptoms of a dying tree:

Base of the Tree

Examine the base of the tree, the point where the main trunk meets the soil, for signs of decay. The specific signs to look out for include sawdust or ants going up and down (into the soil). Such things mean the part of the tree immediately below the ground have started to decay. Ants do not feed on living tree tissues, and the sawdust points to their feeding and burrowing activities.

Also, look out for sprouts from the base of the tree or shoots coming from the trunk. Such growths usually start when a tree is severely stressed, for example, by diseases. Fungus at the base of the tree may also mean that the tree is experiencing internal rot, probably at the base of the trunk or roots.

Bark of the Tree

Apart from the tree's base, its bark may also have telltale signs of impending death. Look for holes, cracks or peeling pieces of the bark; all of these means the bark is dying. Trees need their bark to transport sugar (an important tree nutrient) and protect the inner tissues from insect, disease, and physical damage. These functions will fail if the bark dies, leading to the death of the entire tree.

Ground beneath the Tree

Even the ground beneath the tree may have clues about its health. Look out for fallen leaves and limbs, which could mean that the tree is not healthy. If the tree hasn't lost too many limbs and leaves, then you may not notice the effect on its foliage, especially if its foliage is thick. Of course, this strategy is only useful with evergreen trees that do not shed their leaves in some seasons. For deciduous trees, ground inspection only works when it's not summer or the season isn't dry.

Hollow Trunk

Lastly, a hollow tree trunk may also signal a dying tree. Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell whether a tree's trunk is hollow or not because many trees can survive for a long time with hollow trunks as long as their barks are intact. Here are two strategies to help you know if a tree has a hollow trunk, which signifies internal rot:

  • Hit the trunk and listen to the sound it makes.
  • Drill small holes in the tree's trunk around the areas you suspect the rot to be located. A rotten interior will not present a significant resistance to the drill.

Just because a tree isn't healthy, it doesn't mean that it has to be removed. For example, trees with damaged barks do not always die. Therefore, if you notice one or more of these signs on your tree, call a tree professional like Northwest Residential Arborist And Excavating to help you decide whether to cut down the tree or not.