When we were young, we learned that trees are living organisms like us. Like us, they are born, they grow up, and, eventually, they die. When we think of a tree dying, it’s easy to visualize loggers chopping it down or lightning striking it. But a dead tree may remain standing for years. Knowing how to tell if a tree is dead or alive takes practice and a trained eye.
Often, a dead tree’s roots will be unstable, and the evidence of this may be roots that detach from the ground rather than simply being visible above ground. The tree may also become lopsided, a sign that it no longer has the healthy support system it once did. Another sign of problems in the roots is the presence of mushrooms near the base of a tree. While some mushrooms are harmless to trees, others may be indicative of rot causing diseases inside.
There are multiple ways to tell if a tree is dead using the trunk of the tree. Damage, such as vertical cracks or wounds, is often a sign that something is wrong. Note that a crack in a tree isn’t the same as a tree being hollow; hollow trees are often perfectly healthy. Another way to test the tree’s health is by using its bark. Trees that lose their bark may be in distress if they aren’t of a species that naturally sheds its bark, like redbuds and sycamores.
If you have a young tree, you can test its health using the “scratch test.” For this, use a pocketknife to carefully remove a small area of the outer layer of bark. If the tree is healthy, the area underneath should be a pale green. If not, this area will be dry and brown.
Branches and Leaves
One of the more obvious outward signs of a tree dying occurs in its branches. A dead or dying tree will lose an abnormal number of leaves at times of the year that it shouldn’t, either in parts or across the whole tree. Although some dead branches are natural, even on a live tree, multiple dead branches across the canopy signal that the tree is dying, as are dry, brittle branches. The “scratch test” we mentioned for the trunk also applies on tree branches to test a tree’s health, especially in the winter.
What To Do if a Tree Is Dead
Not all dead trees need urgent or immediate removal. If they are not close to anything or are stable, they can remain where they are. However, if a tree shows signs of instability and its presence threatens surrounding property, contact a professional service to remove the tree. Our Austin tree removal service will do the job safely for everyone involved.