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Is My Tree Dying (signs it may have reached its end)?

A beautiful shade tree can be one of the most enjoyable elements in someone’s backyard. It provides privacy, shade, character and can reduce heating and cooling bills. However, as a large tree begins to die off it can become very unsightly and even dangerous if left in your backyard. So, what are some of the signs to be looking for to identify if your tree is starting to see the end of its days.

The first thing you should try and determine before deciding to try and save the tree or to remove the tree is the dying because it has reached the end of its natural life cycle or if it has not and some other factor is causing it to be highly stressed. Similar to most things in nature, a typical rule of thumb for trees is the larger the mature specimens of that species are when full grown the longer their life span is.

Smaller ornamental trees may only live for 15 to twenty years however larger tree species can often live over a century. If you are in an old neighborhood natural death of your trees is something you should be considering.

Signs a tree is dead and not dying

When you scratch a branch see if its green underneath

A healthy living tree when the bark is removed either with a knife or with a finger nail will show a light green colour underneath while a dead tree will show a brown colour. The dead branches will also be brittle while live branches will bend if pulled on. Check multiple branches from different parts of the tree. Sometimes branches will die off on a tree and the rest of the tree will be healthy.

However, if you check multiple branches around your tree and it shows the same thing everywhere there is a good chance that it is dead.

If the canopy has very sparse discoloured leaves and branches are breaking off, again this is a sign the tree is probably dead. The branches break much more easily in a dead tree and if all the leaves look unhealthy the tree is most likely already dead.

Fungus or mushrooms are growing at the base of your tree

Fungus and mushrooms grow in decaying organic matter if this is seen at the base of your tree it is quite likely it is dying. Now if its just growing in the soil around the base that is no cause for concern but if it is going up the trunk of the tree this is a good indication it is dead.

Is the bark pealing off of the trunk of the tree or is the trunk splitting and cracking

This would indicate the tree is drying out meaning the roots are no longer taking water from the soil and sending it up the trunk. No water to the rest of the tree would mean the tree is not performing basic functions necessary to survive therefore it would definitely be a dead tree.

Signs that a tree is dying but not dead

Leaf damage

Leaf damage this can be an easy place to start. Just like when the rest of your plants, when they aren’t doing well it can be easy to spot drooping or discoloured leaves. This would be different from the sign of death as the leaves should still have similar colouration to the healthy leaves and most of the leaves should still be present on the tree and not the inverse.

Canopy decline

If your tree starts to lose leaves in a particular section of the tree this is often caused by burrowing insects. This will have the look that overall you have a healthy plant however one section is noticeably dying off.

These insects have a good chance of killing your tree as it requires a large portion of its canopy for its sunlight requirements. If it loses too much canopy it will starve for light. If you see this and you want to keep that tree it may be important to call a tree specialist in to try and save the tree from the insects.

Branches growing on lower trunk or leaves growing on lower branches

This is an obvious sign that the tree is in severe distress.

Often diseases start in the most vulnerable portions of the tree meaning the leaves. If the leaves start to get diseased and are not functioning properly the tree will be forced to try and produce leaves wherever it can to try and achieve its energy requirements in order to survive.

If your tree is looking like it is going to die and you don’t want to go through the haste of calling an arborist to remove the dead tree and have a landscape professional install a new one. Call someone who is professionally trained in diagnosing tree diseases and have them come in. They may be able to save your tree for a fraction of the cost removing it and installing new one.

Daniel Hogenbirk

Landscape Foreman

Birk’s Landscaping Inc.

(905) 404-0602

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