Do You Have a Dead Tree? Signs That Your Tree is Dead (& What You Should Do With it)

John DeMacrio
John DeMacrio

John has been helping home and business owners with tree services for over 12+ years and is dedicated to providing relevant, proper tree information for everyone.

Table of Contents

Dead trees are unfortunately common in the US.

Indeed, there are over 6.3 billion of them in 11 states of America alone. Add in the remaining 39 states and you start to realize just how ubiquitous they are!

Of course, a tree’s death is a natural part of its life cycle. As sad it is to see a once beautiful tree start to deteriorate, there’s nothing necessarily strange about it happening.

However, that changes in residential areas, where even a single dead tree can cause significant problems. Everything from the eyesore it becomes and the debris it drops to the fire hazard it represents means something must be done.

The first step, though, is identifying whether a tree has, in fact, died. Looking to ascertain exactly that? Well, keep reading to discover 5 signs of a dead tree, followed by what to do with it!

5 Signs of a Dead Tree

Let’s start with the identification process. Here are the signs of a dead tree:

1. Brown and Brittle Branches

First thing’s first:

Do the scratch test.

This is the best way to ascertain the status of the trees in your yard. The test itself is easy. All you do is snap a few twigs from the tree in question and scratch off a section of their bark.

What do you see?

If the exposed area is green and moist, then, good news, the tree’s still alive! However, if it’s brown, brittle and dry, the tree might be dead.

It’s important to do this with more than one twig though! Checking a few of them ensures you don’t rush to incorrect conclusions and make decisions you’ll later regret.

2. Mushroom/Fungal Growth

Another sign of a dead tree is the presence of fungi around it.

Head outside and take a look at your tree. Do you notice any mushrooms/fungi growing at its base, or on the trunk? If so, then the tree might have become rotten on the inside, which means it’s either dead or dying.

That point’s worth re-emphasizing.

Fungi doesn’t necessarily mean the tree is completely dead; it may just be in decline. Try doing the scratch test to get to the bottom of the matter.

3. Bark That’s Peeling or Cracking

A third indication of a dying/dead tree is the state of its bark.

Now, the bark of a tree serves a protective function- it shields the inner trunk from damage. Thus, when vertical cracks start to appear, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.

This is particularly evident when the bark has been stripped from it without human interference. In other words, the bark has fallen off of its own accord.

Are there areas of the tree that’s bark-free and smooth to touch? Well, there’s a reasonable chance that it’s dead or dying.

4. Thinning Foliage

The same goes when the tree foliage is thinning.

Like the hair of an aging man’s head, a tree can lose its foliage when it falls ill. Go outside and look upwards. What do you see?

Are there bare branches in the heart of spring/summer? Is the canopy threadbare where it was once thick and plush? Is one side of a tree full of foliage, while there’s a noticeable paucity of it on the other?

Well, it might have fallen foul of a disease.

5. Leaning Trunk

A tree that’s leaning heavily to one side can also indicate a death-related problem.

Again, that isn’t always the case. However, something’s obviously happened to cause a once upright tree to lean heavily to one side. It’s likely that the roots have been damaged somehow, compromising the integrity of the tree itself.

Even if this tree is alive, this can represent a danger in busy residential areas. Imagine that tree falling on someone walking or sitting underneath, or onto your house!

What to Do With a Dead or Dying Tree

Having identified the status of the tree, let’s turn to the steps someone should take thereafter.

1. Call the Arborist

The first and most sensible step to take is to call a professional arborist.

They’re the experts in this field. It’s their job to know/confirm whether the tree is, in fact, deceased, and what needs to be done next.

In some cases, they might find that the ‘dead tree’ is actually still alive- just sick. They’ll then take action to facilitate the recovery of it. You never know, there might be an easy fix to restore the tree to its former glory!

Alternatively, the arborist will confirm your suspicions and take action to cut it down.

The approach they take can depend on the exact situation. For example, when a dead tree is in the proximity of any property and/or people, then there’s no choice but to remove it. The potential for damage is just too high.

Whatever you do, don’t try and remove large trees by yourself. It’s tempting to cut costs, but the potential for catastrophic personal injury and other damage is extreme.

Do yourself a favor and call a certified arborist.

2. Have Some Fun With It!

Okay, but what if the tree doesn’t represent a risk?

Well, there’s nothing stopping you from keeping it. After all, there’s still a certain aesthetic appeal to a dead tree. You could even go one step further and decorate it!

Many people decide to paint, engrave, or even wrap trees up in knitwear.

The first step is always to have a professional inspect the tree though. They’ll be able to use their expertise to make appropriate recommendations for it.

Time to Identify and Deal with Your Dead Tree

The world is full of dead trees.

And, though there’s always a certain sadness to them dying, the main concern is the hazard a dead tree presents to you and the community.

With falling branches, trunks and fires threatening people in the vicinity, identifying the death of a tree is of paramount importance.

Hopefully, this post has highlighted how to do exactly that, as well as what to do next.

Unsure about the state of certain trees in your Augusta garden? Contact our expert arborists today.

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