How Do You Know When a Tree Is Dead?

How do you know when a tree is dead? The surprising answer is that it’s not as simple as you might think. Trees are great at playing possum, making it challenging to spot a dead plant. However, Dos Amigos Tree Experts, your certified arborist in Alexandria, VA, is here to make it easier to diagnose a dead or dying tree. Read on to learn more. 

No Foliage and Dead Branches

Do your backyard trees look unseasonably bare? Leaf drop usually signifies that the tree’s trying to reserve resources, and you need to know why. However, there are many reasons for this premature loss of foliage, so it’s more telling if the tree doesn’t shed its leaves as it should.

However, if leaf drop comes with dead branches falling off regularly, it’s a sure sign that your tree is dying. 

Trunk Damage

Look for wounds, soft spots, holes, and other damage to the trunk and its bark. Harm to this crucial area can kill your tree because it gives diseases and pests a way in. The bark peeling away unnaturally is another troubling sign. 

Fungus Growth

Fungi strike terror into the hearts of arborists everywhere, but why? They’re usually a sign of widespread damage. Some types grow on dead tissue, which can be helpful. 

However, there are other types that attack living tissue and rot the tree from the inside out. With these types, the abnormal growths are an outward manifestation of the late stages of the issue. 

Vertical Cracks

How do you know when a tree is dead due to wounds? Any cracks are potentially harmful because they expose the vulnerable heartwood. However, vertical cracks generally mean that the tree is ailing. It can’t support half of itself, meaning there’s some underlying weakness. 

Sudden Leaning

Is your tree suddenly tilting to one side? Are the roots starting to lift from the ground? There’s a good chance that a fungus is attacking the roots or that the tree’s overbalancing. Whatever the case, the plant will start to topple more and more over time until it crashes down.

Peeling Bark

Trees can lose sections of bark and survive, but the more they lose, the worse their chances. That said, it’s worth looking at the peeling pattern. If it’s all the way around the trunk, it’s very dangerous for the tree. 

It’s also worth looking at how the plant reacts. With a healthy tree, you’ll see a tinge of green in the wood, and the bark will start to grow back. If the wood looks smooth and dry, the tree is dying or dead. 

Is the Tree Dead? 

You can check if the tree’s dead by performing a scratch test. Select a branch and scratch it with a sharp tool. Look inside to see if it’s green and moist or dry. If it’s the latter, check in another area. If much of the tree’s dry inside, it’s dead already. 

You can also check fallen branches by trying to snap them. If they’re dry, they’ll crack easily. If they’re still green inside, they’ll be more flexible. 

Should you suspect that the tree is sick, dying, or dead, call the professionals as soon as possible. The case may not be as hopeless as it seems. If it is, you need to remove the tree as soon as possible.

Call Us for Your Free Quote Today!

How do you know when a tree is dead for sure? Call the professionals at Dos Amigos Tree Experts to confirm the diagnosis. We’re experts in many areas like saving a tree with damaged bark, so we’ll do what we can to nurse your plant back to health. Call us at (703) 300-6103 to schedule a consultation.

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We are a locally owned company based in Alexandria, Virginia, servicing all areas of Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland.

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Alexandria, VA 22312
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(703) 300-6103


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