Healthy trees serve a variety of purposes. They provide shade to protect structures and people from the pounding heat of the sun. In addition, they give cover to birds and many forms of wildlife while providing them with food in the process.Meanwhile, they emit oxygen into the atmosphere, mitigating the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide. Plus, they actually inhibit water runoff thereby stifling soil erosion processes. Some trees convey these benefits for a thousand years. Yet, like the rest of us, trees are not immortal; eventually, life begins to ebb. Dying trees give telltale signs of their readiness to be brought down.
1. The presence of fungus — is not necessarily a dangerous indication but it very well could be. Looking mushroom-like and of various shades, fungus threatens a tree when it is characterized by the following: 1) it accumulates around the trunk and; 2) it spreads swiftly through its spores that feed on decaying tree tissue. This means that the tree is rotting — otherwise the fungus could not survive.
2. Roots extending near the surface of the ground — may, again, be characteristic of the species. On the other hand, they may portend oncoming death. Property owners are advised to compare such a tree to others of its kind. Sometimes, roots extending horizontally along the surface are finding no nutrition from the soil beneath. These roots are exposed to the violence of the elements, of wildlife and of lawn appliances.
3. Root rot — is a hazard to the very stability of the tree. It is roots that keep a tree standing and stable, among their other contributions. Root rot is not immediately visible but holes and depressions in the surrounding terrain give a hint of its existence. Anemic growth and pale, dwarfed leaves can also be evidence of root rot. If this condition is left unattended, the tree may fall.
4. Losing branches — suggests that the tree is harboring its energies for survival. Segments of the tree that have some vitality receive the nutrition while other limbs are deprived and, accordingly, fall off. Caution: in some species, falling limbs are routine and no reflection of distressed health. An established tree service, with knowledge of local flora, can best evaluate whether the tree is dying or not.
5. Signs of stress — may be few and treatable or, alternatively, be numerous, reflecting diminishing life. Signals include leaves that turn color earlier than the season dictates; leaves that wilt on trees that are young; cracks and fissures in the trunk; and a sudden tilt of the tree’s posture. One of these symptoms may not be troublesome but multiples represent an existential threat.
6. A decaying trunk — should inspire real concern over a tree’s survivability. Not only splits in the trunk, but loss of bark signify poor health. Moreover, when knocking on the trunk reveals a hollow sound, significant rot has occurred. Property owners may want to take the tree down before it collapses, possibly causing collateral damage.
7. Weather damage — can affect even the healthiest trees. A tree even just a few years old can age quickly after successive, harsh winters and summers marked by hurricanes and tropical storms. If these climatic conditions are realities, checking trees seasonally for the ailments noted above is important. They may very well have expended their strength weathering the violence of the elements.