Signs Your Tree is Dying and Steps to Take to Improve It

The lifespan of a tree varies from species to species. For instance, ornamental trees may live only 15-20 years, whereas a large maple tree can live 75-100 years, and some trees can live even longer—up to a millennia or two in some cases. However, many of them share the same traits when it comes to signaling whether or not the tree is healthy or requires attention as it starts to decline before its time.

There are times a tree becomes ravaged by disease, damaged in a storm, or suffers some other kind of malady that cuts its lifespan short. If you suspect your tree is showing signs that it’s dying, look for the characteristics below and some ways you might be able to help it before it is too late.

Signs of a Dying Tree

Trunk Damage

If a tree has trunk damage, there is likely to be signs of declining health and possibly even death of the tree. For instance, if the tree has missing bark on the trunk, cankers, or vertical cracks, it might be too far gone. Likewise, if the inner layer of the tree bark is brown when you scratch it, the tree is likely to be dead. (In contrast, a healthy trunk’s inner layer would be a whitish color.)

Root Damage

Many things can cause root damage such as cutting grass too close to the roots, soil erosion, and tree diseases. Some signs you may have root damage that is contributing to the tree dying include:

  • The tree suddenly has a noticeable lean where it did not before
  • The base of the tree may have small branches sprouting up along it
  • The roots appear and feel slimy

Bare Branches

If the branches of a tree are not keeping their leaves during the correct season when they should be growing; have brown, brittle leaves instead of a full canopy; or hold onto dead leaves beyond their growing season, there could be some tree health issues at play. Additionally, if the branches have weak joints where they connect with the tree, the tree may be dying.

Fungus Growth

A tree that is growing fungus is a huge red flag for major health issues. The tree may be too far gone to save, meaning you could be better off removing it from the property. A large fungus at the roots or on the trunk of the tree may indicate the tree is rotting inside, and other signs such as bark beetles, carpenter ants, or other insects present may also signal a dead or dying tree.

Negative Changes in Local Conditions

Sometimes the environment the trees are in can contribute to their health, for good or for bad. If conditions close by, such as a building being built or taken down, lead the tree to experience more or less light or wind than usual, then that may impact their health.

Also, in the case of nearby construction, the tree could experience a decline in health if the tree’s roots are damaged in the process. It is important to consider the distance between your project and the local flora to determine if the trees need to be moved or if your project needs further planning to avoid causing harm.

How to Prevent Tree Damage

Although you may have a tree that is beyond saving, you may have others that could benefit from some attention now to avoid health problems in the future. Take these steps to ensure you keep trees healthy long-term!

  1. Take care around roots and trunk – When you are cutting the grass, avoiding bumping exposed roots. Leave plenty of room around the base of the tree so you avoid accidentally scratching or damaging the trunk with yard work tools.
  2. Prune smartly – Not only should you prune your trees when necessary, but the location of the pruning and time of year can play a factor. If you don’t have time to dedicate to this tree maintenance, a certified arborist can help!
  3. Be mindful of weather conditions – If you are in a drought, water your trees and be aware of any major health conditions that might be impacted when the weather goes through extreme swings, such as if a cold snap hits in the middle of spring or summer.
  4. Strategically plant new trees – Some of the problems with trees that eventually develop problems and die has to do with their location. if you plant new trees in areas where they have good exposure to light and water, and where they have room to grow fully, there is less of a chance they will become crowded out by development, competition from other plants, etc.

Steps to Take to Restore Tree Health

If your tree is showing any signs that it is dying, don’t lose hope! You may still be able to restore its vitality through tree injections, tree trimming, and other tree services. An arborist can help diagnose tree problems and determine if there is a way to strategically save it. However, there is a chance your tree could be beyond saving, in which case the only option left would be tree removal. But you will only know what outcome is the correct course of action after their evaluation of your tree.

Contact a Little Rock Certified Arborist

To get help for a dying tree or for other tree services, contact David’s Tree Services in Little Rock!