From a Certified Arborist: 5 Signs a Tree is Sick

Whether your yard is filled with evergreens, maples, cedar, fir, or cherry; all trees get sick and eventually die. Interestingly, most trees show the same symptoms regardless of whether they are evergreen or deciduous (trees with leaves, like maples). Here’s our Sick Tree Checklist to help you know whether you need a certified arborist to come rescue one of your backyard beauties.

Sick Tree Checklist from a Certified Arborist

symptoms of sick trees

This tree is is definite trouble.

  1. Take a clue from the leaves. Discolored leaves or needles are not a good thing. For deciduous trees, leaves may appear yellow in the summer, or be falling off during the growing season. Brown and brittle leaves in the summer are a sure sign something is amiss. For evergreens, needles will begin to turn red or brown. If the top ⅓  of the tree is fully brown/red – this tree is most definitely dying. Call a certified arborist right away.
  2. Losing limbs means trouble. Outside of self-pruning trees like Pecan (which lose the lower limbs when healthy), trees that have branch issues are showing signs of sickness.  When a branch begins to lose its bark – it is dying. When it has no bark left, the branch is dead. When too many branches die, so will the tree. Another sign of dying branches is growing fungus or small holes from wood boring insects. Fungus only grows on decaying wood, and insects find it the perfect home.
  3. Bark beetles are not welcome guests. Beetles indicate dying bark, and eventual branch death. Bark that is brittle is also a tell-tale sign something is wrong. If bark begins to fall off, that branch is dying.
  4. The trunk tells the truth. If you find signs of fungus, wood boring insects, missing bark, or pesky carpenter ants, a tree is in trouble.
  5. The roots are run amuck. If you find slimy roots or growing fungus, ants, or other insects, this tree is having issues. Roots of a dying tree may also become brittle enough to break and make the tree fall over. A less obvious symptom is knots in the fine fibers, but a certified arborist can help you spot that!
    a certified arborist can diagnose sick trees

    Fungus only grows on decaying wood.

What do I do if I suspect a sick tree?

Without a doubt, call a certified arborist, not a tree trimmer. Sick trees are certainly not a DIY project, and cannot be treated overnight. Tree trimmers and other tree service companies may not even have the expertise to diagnose a sick or dying tree. Only certified arborists have the education and experience to successfully treat sick trees.  Look or ask for the arborists credentials before hiring them to treat your trees. Like us, most are proud of their expertise, and happy to share their training and experience with you. If you live in the Portland area – just give us a call. We help heal trees in Portland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Sherwood, West Linn, and any of the surrounding areas.

Sick tree picture by Pauline Eccles [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons /Tree with Fungus picture by Richard Dorrell [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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