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Is Your Tree Dying?


A tree is a beautiful addition to your property, and when properly cared for, it will last for many years. However, a dead or dying tree can pose a risk to people and property. It may not always be obvious whether a tree is dying or not, especially during the wintertime. If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to contact one of your local Portland arborists, who can advise you on what course of action to take. A professional arborist can assist you in removing the tree, or perhaps even save it if the damage has not progressed too far. Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for:Dying Tree

The bark

The bark of a tree is a huge indicator of its overall health. Bark provides the tree with a layer of protection from weather, insects, and disease. Over the course of a tree’s lifecycle, old bark will fall off and eventually be replaced by a fresh layer of new bark. While losing bark is a normal part of tree growth, you may notice large bare spots on the trunk or branches of your tree. If it appears that the bark isn’t growing back, then your tree may have a larger health issue.

The leaves

Throughout the year, keep an eye on the leaves of your tree. Like bark, the leaves have a lot to tell you about the state of a tree’s health. If you notice that they’re growing in shrunken, shriveled, or discolored – especially during the spring and summer – then that’s a strong indicator something could be wrong. If the leaves are falling off prematurely, that could also be a sign that the tree is sick or dying. During winter, dead leaves not falling off when they should can also indicate a problem. Regularly inspect the leaves of your tree; check the underside for lesions, or black dots (which could be fungal spores) and if you see signs of a problem, contact your local arborist.

The roots

While the majority of the root system of a tree is underground and therefore not visible, you should always keep an eye on the parts that you can see in order to assess any potential signs of stress or sickness. Most trees have five to seven large roots, and if any one of these are damaged the resulting stress can damage or kill the tree. While it may not be immediately visible, roots can be harmed by construction projects, extreme weather, or unhealthy soil. Watch to see if your tree begins to tilt to one side; if it does, that’s a strong indicator the roots are weakening and you should contact an arborist immediately.

The bugs

Every tree makes a home to a huge variety of insect species. Having bugs living in your tree is natural and not necessarily an indicator of illness; however, there are certain species that appear only when a tree is sick or dying. As a tree becomes weakened or stressed due to any number of factors, it produces more nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus than normal. The presence of these elements, in turn, attracts parasitic insects such as carpenter ants and wood-boring beetles. Look around the base of your tree for a fine sawdust; this is a telltale sign of the presence of carpenter ants who leave it behind as they burrow into the wood. A professional arborist can tell you if the bugs living in your tree indicate a potentially serious problem.

The growth of fungus

Fungal growth on your tree can be another strong indicator of poor health. There are many different types of fungal infections that can occur depending on the species of tree and the local environment. Dutch elm disease, beech bark disease, elm yellow disease, and oak wilt are a few examples of the many fungal diseases that can potentially threaten trees. Fungus can appear as small, simple black dots (spores) in the leaves, or it can appear as dramatically as large shelf fungus. If you see large shelf or tree bracket fungus, this is a strong sign that the wood inside the tree is already seriously rotted. If this is the case, contact your arborist immediately as fungal diseases can easily spread to other nearby trees.

The less obvious

Ultimately, it’s not always obvious whether a tree is healthy or not. Trees can appear perfectly healthy while still suffering stress and damage. That’s why it’s a good idea to periodically call an arborist to give your tree a check-up. Just like regular check-ups at the doctor help to ensure your health, regular inspections of the trees on your property can determine if there are any risks to your tree’s health that you are not aware of. Your arborist will check, among other things, the pH of the soil (to see if it’s ideal for your particular species of tree), and ensure that the tree is receiving enough (but not too much) water and fertilizer. If you are diligent about having inspections then you will be able to avoid many problems, as your arborist can diagnose problems before they become more serious and lead to the sickness or death of your tree.