How to Bring a Dying Tree Back to Life: 5 Tips To Save Your Dying Tree

By: David Bailey - May 1, 2019

Trees can take a turn for the worse just like any other creature.

If you're ardent about your arbor, though, and keep a close eye on them, you might just save their life! There are many diseases and infections that can threaten the health of your tree, but most can be cured. In dire cases, though, it's best to contact a professional.

Let's take a look at how to bring a dying tree back to life.

Signs of a Dying Tree

It can be pretty tough to distinguish between a dying tree and a dead tree. In most cases, you'll want to opt for tree removal as it's probably already too far gone.

Keep a lookout for these 5 tell-tale signs that your tree is in danger.

1. Barren Branches

Trees losing their leaves to fall foliage is completely normal.

When they lose their leaves during other times of the year—watch out! This is a sign that your tree is sick.

Make sure that your trees have full coverage, and that the leaves look healthy. Often an ill tree can appear full in some areas, while other branches are skeletal.

Trees need leaves to produce energy for themselves. This is a process called photosynthesis. When the trees get ill and lose their leaves, they lose their means of food. It's a downhill battle when your tree starts to lose its leaves.

2. Dried-up Wood

The outer layer of the trunk and branches, called bark, is like skin for a tree.

When the tree is not finding proper hydration, the bark can appear brittle and cracked. This extreme dryness is not a good sign.

Cankers are patches of dead bark that can pop up on trees. They're like canker sores for humans: painful sores caused by stress. The stress is usually caused by bacteria or fungi that infect the tree through exposed bark.

Also, brittle trunks and branches have less flexibility to them. This can cause more strain on the tree every time the wind blows.

3. Decaying

By the time you notice decay, it may already be too late.

Decay becomes obvious with the growth of mushrooms or other fungi on the trunk or branches. If it's on the branch, it's not a terrible problem but it'll still need treatment. If it's on the trunk, however...

Trees decay from the inside out, starting from the center. This is like the spinal cord of the tree, so when it goes the rest is soon to follow.

4. Cracks on Trunks

Some cracks are normal, but other cracks run too deep.

Cracked bark leaves the tree exposed to invading insects, molds, and fungi. This can cause further deterioration if the tree's defenses remain exposed.

Deep cracks need to be treated before pests can fester. They start out as a minor cut, but like an infection, things can tumble downhill if the tree is not treated before the illness takes hold.

5. Weak Tree Structure

The roots are the anchor of the tree.

When trees become sick, their roots can often suffer the loss of some of their strength. This weakens the tree's ability to maintain its posture and composure in the soil. 

Then, your tree might start leaning or drooping over awkwardly to the side. This can exacerbate the issue. The pull of gravity will weigh the tree down until it uproots out from the earth beneath it.

Trees or branches that fall can, obviously, be a huge liability. Especially during a storm when conditions are severe. Don't even risk it with dying branches, just have them pruned. Trees in this condition will need structural support during treatment, or risk termination.

How to Bring a Dying Tree Back to Life

Like any medical condition, diagnosis is best done by trained professionals. Still, it's good to be in the know in case you spot something.

If you're interested in more information about what could be ailing your tree, here are the top 5, most common illnesses your tree might face.

1. Dutch Elm's Diseases

This disease has spread across Elm trees all over North America.

Ascomycete microfungi are the killer component of this infection. The spores spread like wildfire on the backs of bark beetles or through the roots of nearby afflicted trees.

A tell-tale sign is a wilting of the leaves and a pale yellowing of the branches. These begin from the crown of the tree to the base. Eventually, the branches will turn brown and dry up.

The best way to treat this infestation is to cut out the infected areas from the crown down. There are also therapeutic fungicide injections you can administer to aid in recovery. Treatment is likely to be successful if caught early.

2. American Chestnut Blight

A pathogen by the name of cryphonectria parasitica causes this disease.

The appearance of strange, orange-colored spots can be noticed on the branches and trunk of the sick tree. Under the right humidity, these spots will reproduce and release yellow spores into the air.

Also, a canker that seems to sink into the trunk can form. These can lead to trunk girdle, causing further issues.

Treatment involves either a soil compress method or hypovirulence transfer. Consult a professional to carry out these procedures before it's too late!

3. Fire Blight

Trees affected with this illness appear blackened and shriveled, as if burned by wildfire. Without ever having touched a flame.

This disease is caused by a contagious pathogen known as erwinia amylovora. It mostly afflicts fruit trees like apple, pear, crabapple, et cetera, as well as some berry bushes.

Experts recommend that the affected area be cut off immediately, as soon as the first symptoms are noticed. Also, spray an antibiotic made from terramycin or streptomycin all over the tree and surrounding area. This extra precaution should ensure the survival of your trees. 

4. Powdery Mildew

This disease is brought on by a variety of fungi belonging to the Ersiphales order.

It requires extreme humidity to flourish, but when it does it can take over the whole backyard. The fungi appear as a white, powdery layer that covers leaves, branches, and pretty much everything else it touches. It will start at the base of the tree spread until it swallows everything.

Experts suggest treating the whole area with fungicides like propiconazole or triademefon. This should terminate the fungus and protect the area.

5. Sudden Oak Death

A pathogen by the name of phytophthora ramorum is the cause of this disease.

Primary symptoms will appear as a splitting of bark that oozes dark, brown sap. The tree foliage will start to turn pale and wilt away, until falling prematurely. 

Experts recommend spraying a mixture of phosphonate and surfactant on the trunk. Recovery should occur after about five weeks.

If All Else Fails...

Call the tree doctors.

They can assess your tree properly and determine the right course of action. 

Sometimes, though, there's no way of knowing how to bring a dying tree back to life. Death waits for no tree. If that's the case, it's best to remove the tree before it falls and hurts somebody.

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