How Do I Know if a Tree is Dead?

Sometimes you can have a dead tree and not even know it! You may be wondering how to tell if a tree is dead, and a good way of finding out is by using what we call the scratch test. Beneath the dry, outer layer of the bark is called the cambium layer. If you scratch the tree’s trunk you could see green tissue underneath, confirming that the tree is alive. A tree that doesn’t have any leads on it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead. It could be dormant but there are other ways to determine if the tree is dying or dead.

If there is Trunk Damage.

For this reason, you should not perform the scratch test on limbs or branches but on the trunk itself. Are there vertical cracks on the tree or any damage to the trunk? As a tree ages, the old bark will naturally fall off being replaced with a new layer of strong bark. If new bark doesn’t reappear and there’s a smooth section in the trunk, this could be an indicator that the tree could be dying.

Bare Branches.

Like I said before, just because a tree doesn’t have any leaves or needles on it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead but, this is usually a warning sign that something could be happening. You could just have dead branches on a deciduous tree, which will need to be removed in case they become a hazard. But, if you have leaves clinging onto a branch far into the winter, it could be another indication that the tree has serious trunk or root damage.

Root Damage.

Determining whether or not the tree is fit based on its roots is almost impossible because they are not visible, however, you can determine the root status if the tree starts to lean suddenly or if small branches sprout from the tree at the base of the trunk. This is known as epicormic shoots and could indicate that there’s something wrong with the tree.

How Do I Know if a Tree is Dead?

The Breakage Test.

Try to find a twig or a small limb or stick that looks like it could be alive. If it’s brown and dry and breaks easily, this could indicate that it is a dead tree. If it’s just one twig and you are unsure, try a few others. If a large percentage of them are brown, dry, and break easily, the tree is dying or probably dead and should be removed.

Read More: Two parts of a tree removal

Hollow Trunk.

Sometimes a tree can die from the inside out. This could be due to beehives, fire, fungus, or disease. If a tree slowly gets hollowed out from the inside out, it could be extremely fragile and topple at the slightest windstorm. These trees should be inspected by a qualified tree specialist. If it’s a large dead tree, it should definitely be removed by a tree removal professional.

If you have questions as to the fitness of a tree or whether the tree is dying or dead, give us a call. We can help you determine the fitness of the tree and the best way to go about removing it or saving it.