Signs of Dying, Dead or Diseased Trees

Post Created 11/12/2010

Most people take great pride in their property and enjoy looking out over a well-maintained yard, shrubs and plant life. The trees on their property are tall and healthy. Or are they? While it takes an arborist with all their skill and knowledge to prune and thin a tree to maintain a healthy tree, you can help them by inspecting your trees when you do your yard work, watching for telltale signs of trouble. These signs, if ignored, can lead to further damage, even death and removal of trees on your property.

Signs of an unhealthy tree

When signs of problems with your trees appear, it is best to have them checked out by a licensed and bonded arborist like J and F Tree Service. While paying a fee to have your trees surveyed for signs of insects, damage or a dying core may seem distasteful, the damaged caused by a diseased tree falling on your house or property will probably cause you many times over the price of having an arborist come to your property to look at your trees. Or if the disease progresses to an advanced stage or dies, again, you’ll be paying a much higher price to have the tree removed.

While some signs of tree problems can be quite obvious, some signs of an unhealthy tree may seem almost promising of new growth by their appearance. The following is a list and descriptions of signs that your tree may have problems.

Dead or dying limbs

Dead or dying limbs are probably one of the obvious symptoms of problems with your tree. The limbs will be grayish in color and brittle. Dying limbs may have some leaves on them, but they tend to be smaller leaves and far fewer in quantity than on other parts of the tree.


While insects are expected to be found in trees and on the trunks and limbs, certain insects are not welcome and should be dealt with to avoid damage to the tree and the potential introduction of disease. Insects like tent caterpillars create nests in the foliage of the trees and eat all the greenery. Since leaves provide the food source for the trees, the destruction caused by the tent caterpillars remove the food source, essentially starving the tree. Other insects bore into the tree, providing opportunity for rot and disease to begin working on the destruction of the tree. The best protection is to recognize what is normal insect life in your trees and their particular life cycle. Anything out of the ordinary should trigger either protective covering over the trees or a call to an arborist to treat the infestation and remove the potential cause of damage.

Mushrooms growing at the base or on the tree

While the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest may seem like the ideal place for mushrooms to grow and doesn’t seem like a concern when they’re growing around trees, the presence of mushrooms are a sign that a tree may already be dying or dead inside. Mushrooms require decaying material to grow and thrive. If you find mushrooms around your tree you should call in an arborist to check for further signs that the tree is in trouble.

New growth at or around the base of the tree

Seeing new shoots or growth around the base of a tree may seem like a sign that a tree is thriving, but in reality, this new growth is a sign that the roots are being suffocated or that there is enough damage to the leaves that they can’t provide sufficient nutrients for the tree. This new growth can be caused by any number of things – the soil could have become compacted by the presence of heavy machinery if you are remodeling your home, the roots may have been severely damaged by recent utility work or the core of the tree could already be dead.

So what should you do if you see one or several of the signs discussed above? While you could try to take care of the issue yourself, that is not the recommended route to take. Most homeowners do not have the knowledge or proper equipment to correctly identify and address these issues. It is best to call in a trained, certified arborist to take a look at your affected tree(s) to identify the problem and provide a recommendation for treatment. If the damage is extensive enough or if the tree is already dead, the arborist will recommend removal of the tree in order to remove a potential hazard to you and your property.

A simple part of taking care of your trees is inspecting them for signs of damage or disease and calling a certified arborist should a potential problem be identified. If a problem is identified quickly, the issue can probaby be resolved and the tree saved. Maintaining healthy trees not only protects your property from potential damage, but preserves the beauty and value of your property as well.