Deciding if a tree is dead or alive can sometimes be difficult – especially in the winter time when every tree seems to look dead. There are alot of reasons why you should remove a dead tree. But how exactly do you know if a tree is dead? Here are a few signs that can help you determine exactly this question and what steps to take after.

Things to check for on a dead tree

The first thing that you need to do is an inspection of the tree. There are a few signs that will help you determine the health of the tree.

Fungus Growth

Take a look around the tree’s trunk and base of the trunk. Do you see any fungus growing? Fungus is an initial sign that the tree could be dead. If you spot fungus on the trunk this is often an indication that the internals of the tree trunk are actually rotted out and anything beyond the living fungus is dead.

Tree Trunk Damage

Keeping your focus on the actual tree trunk itself, give it a good visual inspection. Look for cracks that are running vertically along it. If the trunk has severe damage this increases the likelihood that the tree is in bad health. Check to see if the tree has bark. As trees age bark will fall off of the trunk and if healthy grow back to replace the old stuff. If a tree isn’t as healthy you will see areas, large or small, on the trunk that are just smooth areas of wood with no bark covering it.

Check for Bare Branches

Take a look at the trees’ branches. If they’re abnormally bare during a time when they shouldn’t be – such as Spring or Summer – there’s a good chance the tree is too far gone to save. Sometimes branches on only half of a tree are bare and the other side are full. This would signal that the tree is diseased only on one side in which case could cause a tree to become lopsided and fall due to the weight. If the tree is deciduous check to see if the leaves cling onto the branches in the winter instead of falling off as this is another sign the tree may be dead.

Check for Damaged Roots

While performing a check of the roots to see if they are damaged is not easy there are some factors that could help you guess if the roots could be damaged. An initial sign that a trees’ roots may be damaged is if the tree appears to be leaning to one side or the other. This could mean the tree’s roots are not strong enough to keep it directly upright. If the roots are damaged or weak, epicormic shoots could be present at the base of the trunk. These are sprouts that can pop up and mean that the tree is under severe pressure underneath the ground. There are some other factors that could affect a trees roots both natural and man-made. Things like excavation projects, new construction, shallow root systems, exposure to new extreme elements, or loosened soil compaction. Check to see if any of those are present near the tree area.

Perform Scratch or Break Test

Performing a scratch test is an easy way to tell the health of a tree. Use a small knife to scratch the outside of one of the tree’s branches. If the inside is green and moist the tree is healthy. Try this on a few more branches in different areas of the tree. If they are all green and moist the tree is in good shape. You can also perform a break test which is the same thing except instead of scratching the outside you can attempt to break the branches to check the inside.

So, if you have a tree in poor health and are unsure as to what you should do, call a tree service near you. A qualified professional can come out and use their refined knowledge of trees in your area to help you keep your landscaping in top shape. If you’re in Connecticut please give us a call and let us be your local tree service professionals.