Is My Tree Okay? How to Know When it’s Time to Remove a Tree
Trees have endless benefits, from energy conservation to wind protection to creating healthy air for us to breathe. But as a living organism, trees are prone to death and disease, can be injured, and may grow where you don’t want them to. As a result, they sometimes need to be removed.
As a homeowner, how can you tell that your tree is dying? What are the signs that it should be removed? Below are some things to watch out for.
SIGNS OF TREE DISTRESS, DISEASE OR DEATH
- Does your tree have mushrooms or other kinds of fungi growing on it or near the roots? Not all mushrooms are bad, but some are indicators that the tree might have internal rot or root disease.
- Is the trunk of the tree damaged? Look for vertical cracks, and check if any of the bark is falling off and not growing back.
- Dead branches are one of the more obvious signs of trouble for a tree, but how can you be sure that the branches are dead? Look for bare branches in the middle of spring or summer, when they should be covered in leaves. Alternatively, if the leaves stay on the branches during the autumn months much longer than other trees, this might be an indication of dead branches.
- Have the roots of the tree been damaged? As roots help the tree obtain water and nutrients, damaged roots can lead to an unhealthy tree. Check for signs of damage from animals, mulch, lawn mowers, recent nearby construction and more.
- Several pests are spreading diseases to common trees in our area. Trees suffering from these and other types of diseases may need to be removed if the damage is bad enough or if the disease has no cure and/or can be easily spread.
- If small shoots/branches start forming from the trunk at the base of the tree, it may indicate extreme stress and should be evaluated by an experienced tree care professional.
- Has the tree been topped? Trees not only look horrible when they have been topped (ask any arborist), but it causes incredible stress and can open the tree up to infections. Some trees do not survive this “extreme pruning” and will need to be removed.
As you probably already know, trees often need to be removed for reasons other than death or disease. Sometimes a tree is in the way, creates a lot of mess, is harming other plants in your landscape, or is a safety concern.
- Leaning Tree - Some tilt is okay, but if your tree is leaning at a substantial angle, that might be an indication of something more serious, such as root damage. If you feel that your tree might be in danger of falling, contact a tree care professional immediately, especially if the lean was caused by winds or storms.
- Tree is in the Way - If the tree is too close to power lines or wires, or is blocking something like traffic signals or a sidewalk or roadway, removal might be necessary. In many of these cases, pruning should solve the problem, but we have seen instances where the only safe option is to remove the tree.
- Storm Damaged Tree - As referenced in the section on leaning, if your tree has sustained heavy damage from a recent storm, such as large branches cracking or the trunk splitting, the safest option may be removal. Keep in mind that the tree is possibly unstable due to the stress from the storm, so any trimming or removal should be done by a qualified tree care professional who can assess the risks and knows the proper steps to take.
- Dead Branches - If your tree has several dead branches, it may be the effect of something more serious. Often times, if less than 25% of the tree branches are dead, pruning may help restore the tree. However, if one side of the tree has dead branches, it may point to trunk or root damage. This causes the tree to be unstable and lopsided, and an arborist should inspect the tree. If more than 50% of a tree’s branches are dead, the tree should be removed for safety reasons.
- Dead Tree - If a tree is dead, it should be removed. Dead trees can spread disease and attract pests. They also could fall, or the branches could fall, either of which could cause substantial damage to people or property. If the tree died from a disease, or if the disease, fungus or insect could easily spread to other nearby trees, it may be best to remove the tree entirely to destroy the pests and pathogens as well.
- Are there other trees nearby that might benefit from a tree being removed? Are there too many trees crowded together? Young trees might benefit from older trees being removed so that the younger trees can get more sunlight and nutrients. An experienced tree care professional will be able to help you assess what the best course of action is.
- Have you done any construction to your home or yard lately? Nearby construction can sometimes harm a tree, especially if the roots have been damaged or if the ground around it has been disturbed.
- Are tree roots growing where they shouldn’t? Tree roots tend to go wherever they can find moisture, which can lead to them showing up in some unexpected – and potentially expensive – places. Building foundations, sewer systems, and more can all be damaged from roots.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE BEFORE REMOVING A TREE
Be sure you have permission to remove the tree. If, for instance, you live in a condominium, it might be the condo association’s job to remove the tree. If the tree has historical value, it might be protected. Many trees have sentimental value too, so keep this in mind (balanced with safety and the general well-being of your tree, landscape, and home) when evaluating what course of action to take.
These are all things that you can look out for, but an experienced tree care professional will be able to give you the most accurate picture of your tree’s health, whether it is best to treat, prune, or remove the tree, and how to ensure that you, your family, and your neighbors are all safe.
Check your trees regularly for signs that they should be removed. If you recognize any of the signs above, have the tree removed as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more dangerous the situation can become, and the more difficult it is to remove the tree.