4 Symptoms of a Dying Tree (And How to Save It)

4 Symptoms of a Dying Tree (And How to Save It)

An arborist scales a tree to remove branches.

Noticed a potential problem with one of your trees? Acting quickly can mean the difference between saving a dying tree and having to remove a fully and completely dead tree.

A dead tree can be an aesthetic eyesore (especially if it spreads to other nearby trees), a safety concern, and cost you money. That’s a trio no one wants to deal with. If you take a proactive approach to keeping your trees safe, you’re more likely to avoid both problems.

To make a fast but informed decision, you’ll need to know how to tell if a tree is dying. We’ve put together a list of five common symptoms to help. If you see the issues we’ve noted here, it’s probably time to call an arborist.

How to Know If a Tree Is Dying: 4 Signs to Watch Out For

No. 1: Lack of New Growth

A yearly examination of your trees for potential trouble can help you notice visible symptoms. Those can indicate issues like a tree disease, fungus, or pest. You can look for evidence of all the issues we’ll outline in this article. But to start, let’s talk about growth – or a lack thereof.

If you notice less new growth than in years past that can be a sign of a sick tree. Look for signs like fewer new buds, lower leaf count, and reduced twig growth. Similarly, smaller leaves can indicate a problem, too.

No. 2: Crown Dieback

Encyclopedia Brittanica reminds us that dieback is the advancing death of branches, twigs, and other tree offshoots. The process starts at the tips of those offshoots. As you might suspect, crown dieback happens at the top of the tree.

The cause of crown dieback can vary. It may be due to injury or stress. Issues with the soil that surrounds the roots can also cause this problem.

There’s more work to be done to determine and fix the problem if you notice crown dieback. But identifying it and taking steps to protect your tree is a crucial first step in the process. Proper tree pruning can help to address crown dieback.

No. 3: Insect and Animal Activity

A few bugs or a bird’s nest isn’t usually something to worry about when it comes to your trees. In fact, many insects help with pollination or ward off more harmful species. But a dead branch or trunk infested with pests can let you know if your entire tree is dying.

Insect infestations can cause damage to trees on their own by boring, chewing, or sucking. Certain insects can also carry diseases that affect trees, causing an infection along with physical damage.

Pests living in or leeching nutrients from a tree are often also signs of an infection or other problems.

No. 4: Root Damage

Root systems are usually barely visible, but they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy tree. When they’re damaged or face adverse conditions, it can mean very bad news for the tree as a whole.

Look for any roots near the surface and keep an eye out for brown or black discolorations. A brown root can show you that the tree is absorbing toxic chemicals. It can also be a sign of dry conditions. Your tree may need more water.

Mature tree with some crown dieback
mature tree battling with an insect or a fungus, resulting in a major crown dieback

Black roots tend to be associated with rot. That might come from overly wet conditions or an organism that causes root rot.

Can You Save a Dying Tree?

If you’re wondering how to revive a dying tree, there’s good news – but we also want to be realistic.

In theory, some trees can live indefinitely. Practically, generally healthy trees have lifespans of several hundred years. For older trees, their time may simply come while you’re in charge of caring for them.

Additionally, diseases and other causes of damage might progress too far for anyone to save them. That’s why regular tree care including an annual inspection is so important. Identifying an issue early on can help save your tree.

With that said, certified arborists can address a variety of problems. They’re experienced and capable professionals. That means they do everything from root management to preventative and corrective tree pruning.

If you’re looking for help with a potentially sick or dying tree, we can help!

We know how to identify a wide range of issues. And how to give trees a fighting chance to return to full health. If a tree needs to be removed, we can clear the area. That will give a new tree the space it needs to grow.

We can even inspect your trees for you, bringing an expert eye to the process.

Need help with your trees? Learn more about our tree care services.