When Is a Tree Considered Dead?

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When is a tree considered dead? The short answer is that it’s difficult to tell the difference between dormancy and tree mortality. In this post, Arbor Experts, your expert tree removal in Virginia Beach, explains the signs of dead trees. 

when is a tree considered dead

Is Your Tree Dormant or Dead? 

The first step in assessing tree health lies in determining your tree’s species. Experts consider fall and winter tricky times of year for tree owners. For various reasons, a tree may lose all its leaves, making you think it’s dead when it’s only resting. Continue reading to learn the difference. 

Examine the Buds

Even in the dead of winter, your tree produces new buds, particularly at the crown. While these grow slowly, they show that the plant is still alive. Not seeing any new buds during a tree inspection usually indicates a bad sign. 

Check for Green Tissue Inside

In arboriculture, green cambium is always a good sign. However, because the bark hides this layer, you must either break a branch or cut a small hole into the trunk. The answer to “When is a tree considered dead?” is when the cambium looks completely dry.

Evaluate the Bark

You can use the bark as another indicator of tree health, as it’s where you usually see the first signs of tree decay. If the plant looks in bad shape, this layer may peel off or fail to regenerate properly. Wounds won’t heal, and you may see signs of mushrooms or other fungal growth. 

Check the Roots

Root damage remains one of the leading causes of death in a tree. Carefully dig away the soil around a few roots and examine them. Are they solid, or do they have mushy spots? Can you see fungal growth or white spots? These are all ominous signs. 

Check the Trunk

Look closely at the trunk, which is the tree’s main supporting component. Can you see: 

  • Cavities
  • Missing bark
  • Splits or deep cracks
  • Scorched areas

Other Signs Your Tree Is Dying

Below, we list some telltale signs that your tree’s in big trouble, and they include: 

  • Deep cavities near the bottom of the trunk often indicate a fungal infection, but more importantly, they point to a worrying sign of structural damage. Whether the tree’s dead doesn’t matter here because it will likely topple. 
  • Branches dropping off more often than normal means that the tree can no longer support them. It might do this to preserve resources, but it’s seldom a good sign. 
  • Sawdust, holes, or mud tubes in the trunk or on branches indicate a wood-boring disease that may make the tree unstable. 
  • Leaves that brown but don’t drop off often signal a potential significant illness. 

Contact Us for the Right Advice Today

When is a tree considered dead? Luckily, arborists are reluctant to give up on trees, so if anyone can save them, we can. If you suspect your tree’s in trouble or dead, call Arbor Experts at (757) 500-8733. We’ll perform a complete risk evaluation and advise you on this and other topics like “Will cutting roots kill a tree?”


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