If you suspect a tree in your yard might be dead, it’s important to find out for sure because dead trees should be removed before they fall and damage your house or other structures on your property. And sometimes trees that are not dead but look troubled may be able to be revived.

Keep reading to learn the top 5 signs to look for to tell if a tree is dead.

Sign 1: Fresh Leaves Are Not Growing

When the leaves of a plant die off, new ones will grow from buds at the base of the leaf stem. This is called “foliar growth.” But if no foliar growth occurs after the leaves have died, then there’s a possibility that your tree may be dead or may be in the process of dying. By summer, most trees have fully budded and grown new leaves. If the tree in question hasn’t grown any new leaves by this point, chances are it’s a very sick tree or possibly already completely dead.

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Sign 2: Tree Branches Are Dry And Brittle

As a tree dies, the branches become brittle and dry. If you grab a branch on your tree and it breaks off with ease, this is another sign that there’s trouble. Brittle dead branches are not likely to be able to support the weight of even small amounts of snow or ice.

Large dead trees can fall over in conditions where they wouldn’t be expected to, like heavy rainfalls, so if you see these types of problems, contact your local arborist immediately. If you’re in Lancaster County or Chester County PA, call us here at Reaching Higher at 717-502-4707.

Sign 3: Tree Trunk Flesh Is Not Green And Pliable

The trunk of a living tree is green and pliable when it’s alive. As a tree dies, its trunk becomes brownish gray and hard. The way you can check for this is to peal or break off a small portion of the bark (one or two pieces should be enough) till you get to the core of the trunk itself.

Once you’ve taken off the outer layer of bark, you’ll see the cambium layer. Take a knife (a pocket knife is fine) and cut into the center of the trunk about 1 inch or so and wiggle the knife back and forth slightly. If you feel a bit of give, and when you pull out the blade if you can see and smell signs of life (dense fresh scent and visual signs of green wood), it still has some life in it. If not, it’s likely dead.

Sign 4: The Tree Suddenly Starts Leaning

One of the phases of death in a tree is tree root rot & decay. When this happens, the tree may lean more easily in the direction of prevailing winds, and when there’s a strong wind that blows through, the tree will sway more than you might expect.

This is a more critical sign, so if this happens to your tree, it’s important to act quickly to protect your tree and property. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the tree could fall and damage your property.

Sign 5: Look For Signs Of Decay & Rot From Pest Infestation

If you notice pest infestations such as termites, beetles, ants, or wasps around your tree, it’s possible that your tree is already dead. Termites feed on the roots of plants, which means that once their tunnels start appearing under your tree, it’s probably too late to save it.

Beetles, ants, and wasps eat decaying organic matter, including the remains of other insects, and therefore, they’ll also appear near dead trees.

If you notice woodpeckers pecking at your tree more often than usual, this could be an indication of increased pest activity since woodpeckers peck to find insects to eat, and when they find a tree with more insects than usual they’ll tend to stick around for a while.

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How To Know For Certain If Your Tree Is Dead Or Alive

If your tree exhibits several or all of the signs indicated above, chances are high that the tree is dead and needs to be removed. However, there are also situations when the tree is still alive but in danger of dying if it’s not taken care of.

If you want to know for certain whether your tree needs to be removed or not, contact a professional arborist at Reaching Higher Tree Service before doing anything else. We’ve serviced hundreds of trees in the Chester & Lancaster County region so we know what to look for.

What To Do If Your Tree Is Dead

If you know for sure that your tree is dead, it’s important to act quickly, especially if it’s within range of your house or any other important structures that it could fall on. A skilled tree specialist will be able to remove the entire tree safely without damaging the surrounding property.

Here at Reaching Higher, we’ve removed all kinds of trees from small one-tree jobs to multiple large trees in difficult-to-remove areas (such as directly beside a home). We’ve also performed a number of emergency storm cleanups to clear downed trees in the aftermath of a storm.

If you live in or near Lancaster County or Chester County PA and need help with your tree, contact Reaching Higher Tree Service today at 717-502-4707. We are a professional tree service company that specializes in difficult tree removal jobs, and we offer free consultations and estimates for all our clients.

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