a black tree on it's own sitting on a white surface

The silent threat: 5 tips on how to identify a dead tree

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Forest-Master-Sales

Trees are a crucial part of our natural environment, and they provide us with numerous benefits such as shade, oxygen, and a home to animals.

However, just like any living organism, trees have a lifespan, and sadly, due to various reasons, it can lead to them dying. Dead trees can pose significant risks to not just homes, areas and businesses but many, people, which is why it’s key to know how to check and identify what one looks like.

Read on because understanding the silent signs of a dead tree can prevent potential hazards in your environment.


Look for signs of decay

One of the most common signs of a dead tree is decay. Looking for signs of this isn’t as difficult as it may sound.

Inspect the trunk and branches of the tree for any visible signs of holes, cracks, or cavities, along with the branches, as they will show signs of peeling bark, cracks, and wood that is brittle and easily snaps off.

The presence of mushrooms or other fungi growing on the tree is another sign that would indicate that the wood is decaying.

Check the angle of the tree

We all know how the majority of trees are tall and straight but can an angle tell you the health of one? The answer is yes and an easy one to spot if one is dying.

If you see a tree that is leaning or has fallen more than 15 degrees, chances are that it won’t survive. This is caused by either root damage or following a storm that has brought with it strong winds – such as when Storm Arwen hit the UK in 2022.

A single dead  tree with snapped branches
Image by OneTwentyOneMedia from Pixabay

Check for bark damage

A tree’s bark is another factor in identifying the health of a tree.

If one is in good health, it would produce smooth, unblemished bark with no sign of any infestation from critters. A struggling one would have the opposite effect, with crumbling or fallen bark, that has holes and cracks in them, opening the door for wood-boring insects to damage it further.

Look for dead leaves or branches

Trees that have perished will have branches and leaves that will match the state of the timber – even during a growing season. Check for any branches that have no leaves or have leaves that are brown or discoloured. Dead branches can also be identified by their lack of flexibility; they may be stiff and brittle.

Look for signs of pest infestation

Pests can cause significant damage to trees and can often lead to their death. Look for signs of pest infestation, such as chewed leaves, holes in the trunk or branches, and sawdust around the tree’s base. If you notice any signs of pest infestation, it’s important to get the tree inspected to determine the extent of the damage.

safety equipment chainsawing

What to do if you spot a dead tree?

If you’ve spotted the signs above and one is in or around your property or public space, it’s vital to get it checked and seen as soon as humanly possible. The next steps for how to deal with it aren’t as complicated as you may think…

Hire a professional arborist

If there’s concern around a tree, it’s best to hire a professional arborist to inspect it. An arborist can identify the signs of a dead tree and recommend the best course of action to try to preserve it or…

Remove the tree

Sadly, If the tree has gone too far past the different stages, it would need to be removed from the area, taking away any danger of it falling near or on property or people.

Plant a new tree

Just because one has been taken down, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be replaced. Consider planting a new one in its place. Take a trip to your local garden centre, and chat with an expert such as an arborist or someone with Plant Nursey experience. It may take a while to fully grow but the long-term benefits would be hugely rewarding for the area and you’d have a choice in which tree you’d like.

In the end, it’s sometimes difficult to sustain the life of a tree but it doesn’t mean that it ends when it does. It could be could practise knowing the different types of trees, in case you wanted to do a like-for-like swap if replanting and making sure that they’d qualify as good wood for log burners.

3 comments

  1. Daisy James

    It makes sense that brown leaves are a bad sign. Yesterday afternoon, I was working on my garden in my backyard, and I noticed that one of my trees has some dead leaves, so I was wondering if that meant that something is wrong. I”ll have to look into hiring a professional to come and remove the dead tree for me as soon as possible.

  2. Vielen Dank für diesen Artikel zum Erkennen toter Bäume. Gut zu wissen, dass der Schädlingsbefall dafür ein gutes Indiz ist. Ich werde meinen Wald bewerten lassen, damit auch wirklich alle toten Bäume identifiziert werden.

  3. Mein Nachbar ist derzeit auf der Suche nach einer Baumabtragung. In diesem Zusammenhang ist es auch sehr interessant zu erfahren, wie ein toter Baum erkannt werden kann. Darauf werde ich auf jeden Fall das nächste Mal im Wald darauf achten.

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