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How to Deal with Sick and Dying Trees This Fall


Trees are a beautiful addition to any property. Here in Atlanta, we are lucky to live in one of the most heavily wooded major cities in America. Trees provide shade that helps keep the city cool. They also provide a home for the many birds that we find in our nature-loving city. Most of the time, trees are a great asset. But if a tree is sick or dying, it could pose a hazard to the trees, structures, and people around it. So how can you tell if a tree is sick or dying? And what should you do if a tree on your property is showing signs of poor health? It’s important to learn the signs of a sick tree. Sometimes, if you catch it early enough, a tree can be saved. And if a tree is dead or dying, you need to take immediate steps to remove it safely. Here’s a useful guide to dealing with sick and dying trees this fall.

Trees Are Alive

A mature tree is usually a pretty low-maintenance organism. Natural sunlight and rainwater are all it takes to keep your tree healthy and growing. But that low-maintenance ease can sometimes lead tree owners to overlook signs of distress. So even if your tree is perfectly healthy—or you think your tree is healthy—it’s a good idea to take a look from time to time to ensure its health.

Trees are living organisms. And like any living organism, trees can get sick. And like anything alive, eventually, every tree will die (though it may take a hundred or even hundreds of years). If you want to keep your tree for as long as possible, watch out for signs that a tree is under stress. The earlier you catch signs of stress or sickness, the better chance you have of saving the tree.

How to Deal with Sick and Dying Trees This Fall [infographic]

Identifying a Sick Tree: Look at the Leaves

There are several signs that a tree might be sick. Some are easier to identify than others. The easiest way to notice a tree in distress is to look at the leaves. It’s coming up on the time of year when leaves start to change colors and fall off of their trees. But if your tree’s leaves are turning color early, before the surrounding trees, that’s a sign that all is not well. If the tree is actually losing leaves, it’s definitely time to take a closer look at your tree’s health.

Not every tree in distress will lose its leaves. One early warning sign is leaves that don’t look the way they should. Leaves with bumps or bubbles may indicate that your tree is diseased. Also, look for leaves with spots or partial discoloration. Finally, if you notice lots of holes in the leaves, your tree could be infested with a parasite. It’s natural for various insects to eat parts of a few leaves. But if every leaf is showing signs of insects, it may be time to treat the tree for parasites.

Other Signs of a Sick Tree

Another sign of an unhealthy tree is fungus growing on the tree. It’s natural for some fungus to grow on a tree. It may even be beneficial to the tree. But if you are noticing lots of fungus, or if it just looks unusual, you may want to call an arborist. If unhealthy fungus is affecting the tree, you can often save the tree with an antifungal treatment.

If a tree has started losing lots of leaves, the next thing to look for is the health of the branches themselves. Normally, branches are green and flexible under the outer coating of bark. Smaller branches should bend and be hard to break off. If you try to bend a branch and it snaps off in your hand, you have a very sick or even dying tree. If you’re not sure, try using your fingernail or a pocket knife to scrape off some bark from a smaller branch. If the branch is green and moist, your tree is doing okay. But if the branch is dry and brittle, you need to take immediate action.

Besides looking at the outer branches, you should also pay attention to the trunk. When inspecting your tree’s trunk, look for cracks or gashes. Long vertical cracks indicate that something is wrong with your tree. Other large holes or gashes could also damage your tree or open it up to infestation. If a tree has unnatural-looking cracks or holes, call an arborist to get a more precise diagnosis.

Signs of a Dead Tree

An unhealthy tree can sometimes be saved. But a dead tree requires removal for the safety of the surrounding plants, trees, structures, and people. If a tree has brittle branches or missing leaves in only one area, the tree might not be entirely dead. But once it has lost all its leaves or gone completely brittle, the tree is probably already dead.

A leaning tree is also likely dead or dying. When a tree is healthy, its root system will hold it in place. But when the root system dies, the tree loses its grip and can start to lean. If a tree is leaning, it needs to be removed urgently. A leaning tree is in immediate danger of falling and damaging anything around it. All it takes is a storm or a strong wind to knock the tree loose.

Why Remove a Dead Tree

Removing a dead tree is vital to the safety of the plants, trees, structures, and people around the dad tree. Even if a tree doesn’t tip over, leaving a dead tree can damage the plants around it. If a tree died due to a fungus or insect infestation, the disease could easily spread to other trees around it. A dead tree also becomes a habitat for bugs and pests that could damage other trees or even infest your home.

The fall is an especially crucial tie to remove dead trees. As we move into the rainy and windy season, bad weather increases the danger from a dead tree. A strong wind or storm could know down large branches or even the whole tree. If a branch or tree falls on your home or vehicle, you could sustain thousands of dollars of damage.

How to Deal With a Dead or Dying Tree

If you suspect that a family member is sick, you call a doctor. The same goes for trees. If you see signs of disease in a tree, the best way to save the tree is to call an arborist. Arborists are tree experts, and they have the tools and know-how to diagnose and treat sick trees. To find a great arborist near you, we recommend taking a look at these TrustDALE certified tree service and removal companies.

If your arborist determines that the tree can be saved, they will recommend a treatment. Often, treatments include antifungal applications, pest control, or trimming parts of the tree that have already died.

If the arborist determines that the tree is dead or beyond saving, the next step is tree removal. Depending on the size and location of the tree, this can be a difficult and complicated job. If a tree is near power lines or very close to a home, your arborist needs special tools and techniques to avoid damaging the nearby structures. Typically, a tree removal expert will remove a large tree in sections. They might use a cherry picker to reach a tree that is in an open area, removing large limbs first and working their way down the tree until it is all removed. If a tree is in a harder to reach spot, they may climb the tree.

Disposing of a Dead Tree

Once the tree has been cut down, you have a few options for removal. If the tree is small, you may be able to arrange for your local solid waste company to take away the pieces. If the tree is larger, or if you can’t arrange curbside pickup, most tree removal companies can use a chipper to reduce the tree to small bits that they haul away.

When a tree removal company cuts down a tree, the stump is usually left in the ground. To remove the stump, you have two options. One option is to dig up the stump. This works for smaller trees with less extensive root systems. For larger trees, the best option is to grind down the stump.

Don’t let dead or dying trees become a menace this fall. Contact a TrustDALE certified tree service and removal company today!