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Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks

Dead Wood and Decay: Tell-Tale Signs Your Tree Is Sick

You take pride in the landscape surrounding your property. But did you know that beautiful, mature trees can add more than aesthetic advantages? These natural fixtures add privacy and increase the value of a home (by as much as 19%).

So, if you’re looking for a bold way to add to your property’s curb appeal, healthy trees are the way to go.

Of course, keeping your trees strong and beautiful isn’t as easy as you might think. You have to practice proper care. Without it, these plants can become vulnerable to dead wood and decay. If you’re hoping to avoid the problem of a sick tree, you’ll want to become familiar with the warning signs.

Dead Wood

Dead wood can become a problem at any time of the year. Fortunately, it’s an issue that is easy to recognize-even from a distance. Below we’ve listed a few of the key signs to watch for. If you notice any one of these issues, it’s time to speak with a professional:

  • Clingy leaves. If most of the leaves on your tree have fallen off, but a few are still hanging on, you may have a problem. You’ll want to keep an eye out for whole branches that haven’t dropped their leaves. Dead branches will hold onto their leaves for a bit longer.

  • Smooth surfaces. If sections of the bark fall off and aren’t replaced with healthy wood, you may have dead wood on your hands. Instead of rough bark, you’ll see smooth wood on the surface of the tree.

  • Visible fungus. Large sections of fungus on the surface of the tree are another sign of dead wood.

If you suspect that your tree has sections of dead wood, try peeling back the outer layer of a twig. If you see green, you know your tree is healthy.


If caught early, decay doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your tree. Check your property’s trees periodically for these signs of decay:

  • Breaking branches. Notice a break at the junction of the branch and trunk? This could be an indicator of internal decay-especially if it’s spread across multiple branches.

  • Conks and cankers. If you notice any fungus, conks, or cankers on the surface of your tree, you may have a problem.
    You should also look for carpenter ants at the base of the plant.

  • External cracks. You’ll want to frequently check on the cracks and wounds of your tree. These vulnerable areas are an entryway for decay.

If you find the source of decay and resolve the problem, you can save your tree.

Your Tree Is Sick. Now What?

Identifying dead wood and decay is just the first step on the road to recovery. Once you’ve recognized that there’s an issue, you’ll want to take the following steps:

  • Consult with a professional arborist. The expert will be able to confirm the presence of dead wood or decay. From there, he or she will diagnose the sickness and help you resolve the problem.

  • Remove the tree, if needed. If there is a significant amount of dead wood or decay, you may need to remove the tree. Of course, this isn’t a job you’ll want to perform on your own. Hire a professional and limit your risk of injury or damage to your yard.

  • Move forward with proper care. Once you’ve identified and resolved the problem, you’ll want to learn how to prevent a similar problem in the future. Caring for mature trees is no easy task, but the right information and maintenance plan can make all the difference.

Keep in mind that recovery can be a time-sensitive issue for your tree. If you notice any of the above indicators, call an arborist today.