heathy and dead tree

How To Tell If a Tree Is Dead

The death of a tree is not sudden. It exhibits various symptoms before it dies. An accurate assessment of the symptoms can help detect that the tree is on the verge of death. Sometimes the trees can be saved even from such a situation by appropriate measures. So how to tell if a tree is dead?

Dying Tree Symptoms: What To Look For?   

A plant cannot speak up for itself or express its concerns. To find out whether it is dying or not, you have to observe every part of it closely. Closer scrutiny will give a proper insight into the condition of various parts of the tree and, ultimately, the entire wood’s health profile. Now, how do you know if a tree is dead? Here is the answer.


The leaves are among the first plant organs to exhibit a clear symbol of being unhealthy. Many people are confused regarding how to determine if a tree is dead. Evergreen forests retain its leaves throughout the year, but the leaves will turn brown if it dies. Browning and falling off leaves are the two essential circumstances that indicate the wood’s approaching death. Turning the leaves into needle shape is also considered a trailer of dying plants.



Branches can also tell you a lot about the plant. The presence of multiple dead branches indicates poor health and dying tendencies. While observing, one has to be careful that a single dead unit does not signify that the whole stock is dying because it is a part of the plant’s everyday living cycle. When many branches start to expire off from the tip all at once, it becomes a matter of concern. The flexible branches are alive while the brittle ones are dead. Another question of concern is – does cutting off dead branches help a tree?. There are different schools of thought regarding this matter, but mostly, the answer is yes. 


The rotting of a mass section of the trunk is among the first indicators of a dying wood. The peeling of the bark is among the signs a tree is dying. However, peeling is typical in a few plant species chiefly owing to seasonal fluctuations. In such cases, peeling won’t indicate nearness to death. Despite a sizable rotten chunk in the bark, survival is possible.


Roots stabilize the entire structure by grounding them to the soil. The first signs of sick roots and subsequently dying plants are large fungal masses in the roots. Now the question is how to know if a tree is dying by inspecting its roots. The roots of a plant about to die harbor many fungus types, namely mushroom, and bracket fungi. This indicates that rot is occurring internally. The root of the dying sapling also lose its grip from the soil and ultimately fall off. 

Other Signs Of a Dead Or Dying Tree    


A leaning plant reflects that the roots have undergone derogatory change and cannot hold the wood in position. If a tree has already leaned away 15 degrees or more from its original vertical position, it is on the verge of death. It is the decreasing roots that cause such kind of drastic and fatal displacement. If you are thinking that is my tree dead, then look for its posture. 


tree cankers

The Tree Care Industry Association defines cankers as any rotten bark area caused by fungal or bacterial infections. Cankers are like wounds that get deep into the wood bark, similar to a disease, and ultimately cause its death. Cankers are strong indicators of dying trees

Scratch Test Fail    

The health of the cambium can indicate whether the wood is about to perish or not. Cambium is a particular type of connective tissue layer found just beneath the outer bark. A live one has a green cambium, while a sick shrub about to expire has a brown cambium. A scratch on the external surface can be the answer to your question of how to tell if a tree is dead.

Why Are Dead Trees a Problem?      

Dead trees can pose multiple problems if not taken care of in an appropriate way: 

  • It can get uprooted and fall off suddenly, which can cause potential injuries to any passer-by.
  • It can fall over electric wires or posts, which can lead to short circuits or power cut-offs.
  • These can also pose damage to the property around them.

Can You Save a Dying Tree?     

The signs of a dead tree are quite prominent. If your plants get daily care and maintenance, these signs will come under notice. If the dying wood symptoms can be diagnosed at early stages, it is often possible to save it. A gardener can help you with professional skills to save a dying wood.


If you have the least idea about dying trees’ signs, you won’t have to keep asking how to tell if a tree is dead. You can spot them out by yourself. Regular scheduled care and maintenance can help woods have a long life. However, it is negligence, which most often causes the trees to die off prematurely. Can the symptoms of wood help people to take steps for barring its premature death? Have you witnessed anything like this in real life? 

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