plant health care technician inspects tree

Is Your Tree Sick? Identifying Signs and Seeking the Right Care

Trees can get sick, just like humans. Disease, injuries, and environmental conditions can all cause a tree to become sickly and decline. It’s important to be able to identify the signs of a sick tree so that you can start to implement some solutions.

Some of the signs of a sick tree include:

  • Brown and brittle bark or cracks
  • Leaf problems
  • Abundance of dead wood or hanging limbs
  • Carpenter ants or pest activity
  • Fungal growth
  • Root damage
  • Odd growth patterns

In this article we’ll dive into how to tell if a tree is sick and also what you should do about it if there is a problem.

What Does a Sick Tree Look Like?

There could be a number of things going on that could indicate you have a diseased tree. A tree could be plagued with an actual tree disease. Four common tree diseases in New England include Apple Scab, Needle Cast, Anthracnose, and Leaf Spot, which we talk about in this article.

plant health care technician inspects tree

But a tree could also be sickly from other problems it’s struggling with. 

Let’s look more specifically at some of these signs of a sick tree and what you might expect to see.

  • Brown and brittle bark, or cracks: The bark of a sickly tree can become loose and fall off. The tree may also have vertical cracks or no bark. Check for deep splits in the bark that extend into the wood of the tree or internal or external cavities. Cracks often weaken the tree, making it vulnerable during storms and other kinds of harsh weather, which will only cause it to decline further.

  • Leaf problems: A diseased tree often has problems with its leaves. They could have holes, be discolored, or look like they’re shriveling up. In deciduous trees, look for branches that have only brown and brittle leaves during the growing season. They will also have dead leaves still clinging instead of dropping to the ground. Coniferous evergreens will show red, brown, or yellow needles or leaves when stressed or dying. Leaves might also fall prematurely or out of season.

  • Abundance of dead wood or hanging limbs: A couple of dead branches or dead wood is no major cause for concern. A regular pruning schedule during the dormant season will keep your trees healthy by pruning out this dead wood. However, an increased prevalence of dead wood could indicate sickness. ​It’s also concerning if limbs are hanging. This could be due to damage (like storm damage). But it could also be that the branches have gotten weakened.

  • Carpenter ants or pest activity: Talk about a double whammy. ​Pests such as bark beetles and carpenter ants live in stressed, dead, weakened, or dying hosts. That means if you have a diseased tree that is already struggling, it’s more likely to also have pest trouble.

  • Fungal growth: For fungal or bacterial infections, look for cankers (discolored areas or depressed places on the bark) or mushrooms growing on the ground at the tree’s base or on the tree itself. These are indications of rotting roots or trunk.

  • Root damage: ​Root damage can also be a sign of major trouble brewing. This one can be tough to spot though. Since roots run deep underground, determining the extent of damage isn’t always easy. Changes in a tree’s health after a recent excavation or construction project near it is a sure sign of damage, which could lead to a diseased tree. Other signs that something is wrong with the roots are thinning foliage, low yearly growth, undersized yellow leaves, dead branches, and wilted brown leaves during the growing season.

  • Odd growth patterns: Is your tree growing in a weird way? Odd growth patterns can indicate general weakness or structural imbalance. If your trees lean over 15 degrees on either side, it’s a sign of wind or root damage. Large trees that have tipped because of intense winds seldom recover.

How to Treat a Sick Tree

As you might have guessed, the proper sick tree treatment will depend on exactly what’s going on. Different problems have different solutions.

If it’s determined your tree has a tree disease, for instance, there are some treatments that can address the problem. Fungicides can be effective for stopping the spread of certain fungal infections. Pruning can also help remove the diseased areas and prevent further spreading.

plant health care technician fertilizes tree

If it’s an environmental issue, such as your tree is lacking nutrients, tree fertilization might be warranted. A tree fertilization service delivers nutrients down to the root zone, where they’re needed most.

If there’s a pest problem occurring, there are different pest control strategies that can be used, depending on what you’re dealing with.

plant health care technician sprays tree

The key will be a proper diagnosis by a tree care professional. Then, the best treatment can be implemented. 

In some cases, if a diseased tree is too sick, tree removal might be the best course of action. If your tree isn’t going to fully recover, it could become a hazard and start to pose a threat. It will be important that it is safely removed.

Choosing Tree Care in Northeastern Massachusetts, Southern NH, and Southern Maine

In order to ensure a proper diagnosis and implement the best course of action, it will be important to choose a good tree care provider. We recommend finding a tree care company that employs Certified Arborists. These experts are well-trained in the field and will be able to make a correct diagnosis.

Many tree problems mimic one another, so it can take an expert eye to figure it out. Then, the best choices can be made for your tree.

At Seacoast Tree Care, we’re committed to preserving the health and beauty of trees by performing vital services like tree pruning, tree removal, and general tree care the right way. When you make a wise choice in tree services, you’ll ultimately take an important step in protecting the value of your property’s trees.

Ready for safer and healthier trees at your Southern NH, ME, or MA home? Request your consultation and get a free quote for tree pruning services. We service properties in and around Stratham, NH, Kittery, ME, and Haverhill, MA. By making a wise choice, you’ll know your trees are in good hands.

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