It's firewood season! Time to stock up - and we can help! Learn More

How to Tell if Your Tree is Dying or Dead

A dying or dead tree can be a hazard to your family and property. You want to make sure you are aware of the signs of a dead or dying tree to avoid any incidents! There are a few ways that you can recognize the signs of a tree that may pose a threat.

Cracks & Seams

If you notice any vertical cracks or seams on your tree’s trunk, or notice old bark falling off and not being replaced by new bark, this could signify a health issue for your tree. Healthy trees replenish their bark as old bark falls off, so if you see an excess of smooth tree surface, you may want to consult an expert.

Oddly Behaving Leaves

Should your tree be covered in leaves right now, but is instead bare? Or maybe your deciduous tree (one that sheds leaves annually) is hanging onto those old, dead leaves long into winter? These are signs of a tree that is definitely not healthy.

Damage to Roots

While not an obvious sign at first, you can certainly deduce if your tree is having root issues. One signifier is if your tree is suddenly leaning to one side. Another is having small branches, called epicormic shoots, that sprout from the trunk at the base of tree; this could signify severe stress to your tree. Often, root issues can be caused by new construction near the tree, any exposure to extreme elements, or even just a shallow root system or poor soil compaction. Roots are, of course, important, so if they aren’t healthy there’s a strong chance your tree isn’t either.


The large shelf fungus that is often referred to as “wood conks” might mean the inside of your tree is rotting. These large, flat growths are easy to spot and difficult to remove. This is a big concern for the stability of the tree, especially if it is near your home or another structure.

Local Construction

Is your house or structure new, and did the development of the land include removing many trees? If so, the trees left standing are now being exposed to much more wind and sun than they are accustomed to. Make sure you are aware of the integrity of your tree if this is the case.

A Final Test

If you still aren’t sure if your tree is showing signs of dying, you may want to perform the scratch test on it.

Underneath the outer layer of bark, there is what is called a tree’s cambium layer of bark. Living trees have a green cambium layer and dead trees have a brown and dry cambium layer.

By scratching off a little of the outside bark to look at the cambium layer, you can get a good look into the health of your tree. It’s recommended you do this on the trunk, not a branch, as those can individually die. You don’t need to gouge the tree – a small strip taken off with your fingernail or a pocket knife will do!

Your Maryland Tree Experts

At Appalachian Tree Company, our experienced tree professionals can evaluate your trees’ health and, if needed, remove a dead or dying tree. Contact us today for a consultation!

Tags: , , ,