8 Signs a Tree Is Dead and When To Cut It Down

In addition to offering advantages like fruit, shade, and seclusion, trees also enhance the attractiveness of their surroundings. But it’s critical to recognize when a tree in your yard has to be taken down or is exhibiting symptoms of decay. Particularly in inclement weather, falling trees can result in serious injuries as well as costly damage to houses or cars. Discover the eight telltale indicators of a dead tree and when to take it down by reading on.

1. Exposed or Heaving Roots

The roots of many typical garden trees, such as oaks, maples, and pines, can extend up to two or three feet below ground. This will keep you from seeing issues that are hidden beneath the surface, but you can still look for evidence of rotting roots at the base of the tree and in the ground. This is what happens when trees don’t have enough room to spread out, and their roots start to grow above the dirt.

Tree roots that have been exposed by soil erosion are more susceptible to damage from high rainfall. Construction and excavation activities can also harm roots. If you notice any new sprouts near the base of the tree’s trunk, it may indicate that the tree is in trouble or possibly close to death.

2. Tilting or Leaning

Step back a little and examine the tree as a whole. A leaning tree or one whose tilt has grown can be signs that there is a problem with the roots. It’s possible that wind or a lot of rain destroyed the root system, which is something that trees cannot easily heal from. If a tree is tilted more than fifteen degrees, it is unlikely to survive. A large lean may indicate that a tree has to be taken down.

3. Dry and Brittle Bark

Examine the bark on your tree by taking a closer look. A dying tree may be indicated by dry, brittle bark that readily breaks off the tree. Although bark might vary greatly in appearance throughout tree species, healthy bark should feel somewhat damp.

Look for any spots on the tree where there are major cracks, missing bark, or signs of bark beetles. Any one of these could indicate that a tree is dying. The tree may have Hypoxylon canker, a fungal disease, if the underside of the bark bears scales that are silvery-white in color. This illness deteriorates trees and is a clear indication that a tree needs to be removed.

4. A Lack of Leaves

A tree’s leaves can reveal vital information about its health. The green needles of coniferous evergreen trees usually last all year. Every year, deciduous trees go through a cycle in which they lose their leaves in the fall and sprout new ones in the spring.

It might be time to prune your coniferous evergreen tree if it is losing a lot of needles or if the needles it does have are becoming reddish-brown in color. It is ideal to assess deciduous trees’ leaves in the summer. The tree shows indications of stress if big pieces are missing, or if it is dry and brown instead of vibrant green.

5. Dead Branches

Every now and then, healthy trees will have dead branches; these can be controlled by routine pruning. On the other hand, if you notice a growing number of sticks and limbs on the ground or if your tree has significant patches of branches devoid of leaves, it may be dying.

A tiny twig can be bent between your fingers to determine whether a branch is dead. The branch can be dead if it breaks. A twig in good health will flex a little bit before breaking.

6. Pests Have Made a Home in the Tree

Trees in distress can draw a wide range of insects, including birds.

Certain types of woodpeckers favor dead trees for their nesting sites. The main food source for woodpeckers is insects and their larvae, which are frequently found in decaying trees. Woodpecker activity in your yard may indicate that a tree is nearing death.

Moreover, termites mostly feed on wood; annually, a termite colony may eat hundreds of pounds of wood. Certain termite species are able to live inside trees, while other termite species are ground dwelling and burrow tunnels to reach trees for food.

Carpenter ants, which are bigger than house ants, also favor creating their colonies in damp, rotting wood. Wood fragments and worker ant trails on or near the tree are indicators of carpenter ants.

Additionally capable of causing serious harm to a tree’s bark are tiny brown or black insects. If you loosen and remove a piece of bark from a tree, you may be able to observe if bark beetles are after it. Pitch tubes are another sign that the tree has been battling an intruder. For bark beetles, there isn’t yet a chemical insecticide that is allowed, thus affected trees will probably need to be taken down.

7. Fungal Growth

Several kinds of mushrooms can be found growing on rotting and dead trees. It might be time to take down your tree if it has chicken of the woods, lion’s mane, or turkey tail mushrooms. A tree’s trunk harboring mushrooms may be the result of extensive interior rot.

8. Scratch Test

Trees contain a green layer called cambium underneath their bark. The cambium of a decaying or dead tree will be brown. To check this, scrape off the top layer of bark with a little knife or your fingernail. Test a few other locations on your tree again. It is very likely that the tree is dead and needs to be chopped down if you find no more green cambium.

Overview Table of Dead Tree and When To Cut It Down

Rank Sign
#1 Exposed or Heaving Roots
#2 Lack of Leaves
#3 Dry or Brittle Bark
#4 Lack of Leaves
#5 Dead Branches
#6 Pests Have Made a Home in the Tree
#7 Fungal Growth
#8 Scratch Test