How to Tell if a Tree is Dead or Dying

By: albertaarb - February 18, 2015

It can be a challenge for those who have owned their home for many years. That once proud-looking tree in the back yard is now looking past its peak. It might be time to begin the tree removal process before it comes down and destroys property during a storm. By analyzing the tree’s condition, you can work with your local arborist and decide when it’s time to look at tree removal. As this article from details, there can be many factors behind ill health in trees, and a proactive response can help ensure the best possible result for recovering the tree.

“A healthy tree is strong and robust, but it can go south in a number of ways. Factors like wind, rain and extreme heat and cold can affect the health of a tree. These environmental causes can't be controlled, so it's important to keep an eye out for any early symptoms of ill health,” says Emilie Sennebogen in her article.

With a little investigation, you may find the tree can be recovered. Let’s look at the key indicators of a dying or dead tree.

Dead Wood on the Tree

One of the most common signs that a tree is dying is when the wood on the trunk begins to look dull and lifeless. Dead wood on branches is also a clear sign of a dying tree, and means the branch should be removed immediately.

Severe Decay

Signs of decay such as mushrooms on the exterior of the tree are a clear signal that the tree’s condition has deteriorated. Fungi near the bottom of the trunk and soft, crumbling wood across the tree’s branches are also clear indicators that decay has begun to take hold across the tree’s internal structure.

Cankers and Cracks

Cankers, which appear as holes where bark is missing across a trunk, are usually a sign of a dying tree. These cankers can eventually make the tree a potential hazard within the back yard as they increase the chances of a stem breaking at the point where the bark is missing. Cracks across the trunk are also a leading sign of a structural issue within the tree. When deep cracks are found across both branches and trunk areas, you should speak with a local arborist about the issue immediately.


When a tree’s trunk begins to lean in one direction, this could point to a problem with the roots and the internal architecture of the trunk. It could mean that a disease has taken hold within the root system and left the structure with limited support. If you have a tree that is beginning to lean in one direction in your yard, you should consult a tree removal expert asap.

Do You Have Dying Trees in Your Backyard

If you suspect that your trees are dying, you should contact an arborist as soon as possible. The tree might pose serious dangers to you, your family, and your property. Therefore, if tree is beyond recoverable, the best option would be tree removal.

Although tree removal is a last resort, there are certain circumstances when it is required.  At Alberta Arborists, we can help you decide whether or not a tree should be removed. Should you require tree removal services, our staff will use the proper techniques and professional equipment to ensure that your tree comes down in the absolute safest manner possible.

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