How Do You Know A Tree Is Dying?

Our journey today is to learn the nuances of tree speech, specifically the warning indications of a tree’s imminent death. Trees are mute witnesses to the passage of time, standing tall and unmoved amid the hum of human activity. They protect numerous animals with their homes, shade, and food, and they delight us with their majesty as if they were sent from another era. Still, by the natural order of things, trees eventually die. As caretakers, we must acknowledge the intricate relationship between life and death in the tree kingdom.

orange and white snow blower on brown wooden log

Here, we’ll examine the telltale symptoms of a sick tree and try to figure out what they mean. It’s not meant to be morbid, but rather a chance to become closer to one another. 

How Do You Know A Tree Is Dying?

To recognise the symptoms of a dying tree, one must pay close attention to the signals. The following are some of the most obvious signs of a dying tree:

Leaf Discoloration

One of the first signs of a dying tree is a change in leaf colour. Leaves may turn yellow, or brown, or exhibit patches of discolouration. In some cases, the leaves may wilt or drop prematurely.

Thinning Canopy

A healthy tree typically has a full, lush canopy. If you notice significant thinning or gaps in the foliage, it could be an indication of declining health. The tree may struggle to produce new leaves or experience dieback in certain areas.

Bark Issues

Bark abnormalities can be a red flag for a dying tree. Look for peeling, cracking, or areas of missing bark. Dead patches or fungal growth on the bark can also be indicators of an underlying problem.

Dead Branches

Dead branches or limbs are a clear sign of a dying tree. As the tree’s vitality declines, it may not be able to sustain all its branches. These dead branches may become brittle and break easily.

Lack Of New Growth

Healthy trees produce new growth each year, such as buds, shoots, or branches. If you notice a lack of new growth over an extended period, it suggests that the tree is struggling to regenerate and may be in decline.

Root Issue

The health of a tree’s roots is crucial for its survival. Signs of root problems include mushroom growth at the base of the tree, exposed roots, or soil heaving around the trunk. Additionally, if you notice the tree leaning significantly, it could indicate root damage or instability.

Pest Or Disease Infestation

Trees under stress are more susceptible to pests and diseases. Look for signs of insect infestation, such as holes in the bark, sawdust-like frass, or webs. Fungal infections may manifest as cankers, oozing sap, or visible fruiting bodies.

Declining Overall Health

Observing the overall vitality of the tree is important. Consider factors like reduced flowering or fruiting, diminished resilience to environmental stressors (e.g., drought), or a general appearance of weakness and decline.

Bear in mind that these symptoms might not always point to a dying tree. Some symptoms may be just a momentary response to stress or something else. If you want to get an exact assessment of the tree’s health and guidance on what to do next, it’s best to see a certified arborist or tree specialist.

Can You Save An Old Dying Tree?

Depending on the severity of the decline, the source of the decline, and the tree species, it may be feasible to save an elderly tree that is showing signs of death. If you want to try to save a dying ancient tree, here are some things you can do:

Identify The Cause

Determine the reason behind the tree’s decline. It could be due to factors such as pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, root damage, or environmental stressors like drought or excessive heat.

Consult An Arborist

Seek the expertise of a certified arborist or tree care professional. They can assess the tree’s health, diagnose the problem accurately, and provide appropriate recommendations for treatment and care.

Provide Proper Watering

Ensure the tree receives adequate water, especially during dry periods. Deep watering around the tree’s root zone can help replenish moisture and alleviate drought stress. However, be cautious not to overwater, as it can lead to root rot.


A layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or bark, should be applied around the trunk of the tree. In addition to preventing weed competition and helping the soil maintain its ideal temperature, mulch also helps to keep moisture in the soil. However, you should avoid heaping mulch up against the trunk of the tree because doing so will hasten the process of rotting.

Pruning And Removal Of Deadwood

It is necessary to prune the tree to eliminate any branches that are sick, injured, or dead. This serves to promote the overall health of the tree, avoids the spread of illnesses, and decreases the possibility of limbs falling off the tree. However, it is essential to get the advice of an arborist to learn the correct techniques for pruning and to prevent removing an excessive amount of branches, since this could cause the tree greater damage.


In rare situations, nutrient deficits can contribute to a tree’s deterioration. If the tree requires particular nutrients, a test of the soil can tell whether or not it is there. If it is required, the application of fertiliser in a specific pattern might assist in the process of restocking nutrients. However, it is essential to seek the advice of an arborist to obtain the correct recommendations for fertilisation, as either too much or the wrong kind of fertilisation can be detrimental to the tree.

Pest And Disease Management

If the deterioration of the tree can be traced back to an infestation of either pests or diseases, the proper treatment procedures should be carried out. This may include the use of pesticides or fungicides, the pruning of affected branches, or the adoption of cultural practices to minimise the impact of pests and diseases.

Supportive Care

Take into consideration the installation of a tree support system as well as the implementation of a deep root feeding programme as extra supportive care measures to take into consideration for implementation. These actions may assist in stabilising the tree, promoting healthy root growth, and increasing the tree’s chances of making a full recovery.

Keep in mind that not all old trees in decline can be rescued, especially if the decline is rapid or the tree’s integrity has been compromised. It’s possible that cutting down a tree is the best and safest choice in certain scenarios. An arborist’s advice can help you make the best choice for the tree and your circumstances.


It’s not necessarily inevitable that a dying old tree will be cut down. It is possible to save such a tree by performing a thorough analysis, acting quickly, and using professional knowledge and equipment.

We can provide a lifeline to these magnificent animals that have seen the passage of time by determining the root reason for the tree’s decline, consulting with arborists, and taking the necessary steps. The tree can be helped in its recovery from specific problems by receiving regular watering, mulching, pruning, and targeted fertilisation.

It’s vital to remember that it’s not always possible to save a dying tree. Tree removal is necessary for safety and risk avoidance when the level of decline or structural damage is beyond repair.

To know more visit how to save a dying tree today!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *