Trees can get sick because of many reasons, such as too much or too little sunlight and nutrients, soil compaction, injuries because of inadequate pruning, lack of seasonal fertilizing and maintenance, and harsh weather.
Trained professionals can spot the various signs of insect damage, disease, or instability. You must, too, so you can get professional help and save the tree before it’s too late.
The bark of a dying tree becomes loose and falls off. The tree may also have vertical cracks or no bark. Check for deep splits in the bark that extend into the wood of the tree or internal or external cavities. Cracks often weaken the tree, making it vulnerable during storms and other kinds of harsh weather.
In deciduous trees, look for branches that have only brown and brittle leaves during the growing season. They will also have dead leaves still clinging instead of dropping to the ground. Coniferous evergreens will show red, brown, or yellow needles or leaves when stressed or dying.
A couple of dead branches or dead wood doesn’t mean your tree is dying. A regular pruning schedule during the dormant season will keep your trees healthy. However, an increased prevalence of deadwood indicates sickness.
Pests such as bark beetles and carpenter ants live in stressed, dead, weakened, or dying hosts. For fungal or bacterial infections, look for cankers (discolored areas or depressed places on the bark) or mushrooms growing on the ground at the tree’s base or on the tree itself. These are indications of rotting roots or trunk.
Since roots run deep underground, determining the extent of damage isn’t always easy. Changes in a tree’s health after a recent excavation or construction project near it is a sure sign of damage. Others are thinning foliage, low yearly growth, undersized yellow leaves, dead branches, and wilted brown leaves during the growing season.
They indicate general weakness or structural imbalance. If your trees lean over 15 degrees on either side, it’s a sign of wind or root damage. Large trees that have tipped because of intense winds seldom recover.
The cambium layer of a healthy tree will be green. It is brown and dry in a dead or dying tree. You can use your fingernail or a pocket knife to remove a small exterior bark strip to check the cambium layer. Repeat the test in several tree areas to determine if the entire tree or just a few branches are dead.
This blog is run by Seacoast Tree Care in Hampton, NH