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How do you know if your trees are unhealthy?

3 minute read

How do you know if your trees are unhealthy?

hollow core of a fallen pine tree

by Lina Fletcher

Has your tranquil morning ever been interrupted by the unmistakable buzzing of a chainsaw in your neighbor’s yard? Coffee in hand, you peer out the window to find bucket trucks and pickups lining the street and crew members in hard hats lowering heavy branches out of the massive oak that’s provided shade to the neighborhood for as long as you’ve lived there. Annoyance turns to curiosity and you walk outside for a closer look. Then you watch as the tractor with grapple lifts a large cut section of the tree trunk and passes you on its way to the dump truck. The exposed hollow core of the oak is obvious.

From all appearances, that tree seemed solid. Then you turn and look at the trees in your own yard. 

How do you know if your trees are unhealthy?


Are large branches growing over your home or other structure?

Over-extended branches become weighty in a storm when the foliage (and Spanish Moss!) soaks with water. The increased weight makes them susceptible to breaking. The branch may not need to be removed completely, though. A proper trimming will alleviate that heaviness and allow the tree to support its weight. 


Are there broken or dead branches dangling up in the canopy?

When branches break, they don’t always fall to the ground. Some will be caught by other branches and suspended as they slowly decay. When a heavy storm blows through, the movement often dislodges those dead branches and puts personal property at risk when they fall. 


Is the crown too thick?

A full tree canopy is a beautiful thing, especially when the tree has room to grow symmetrically. Over time, though, smaller branches start to crowd the space, growing additional foliage that retains rain water. During a storm, the thickened crown will cause the tree to become top heavy. If the root system is not strong enough to withstand the added pressure, the entire tree may topple over. An arborist will know which branches to eliminate in order to lighten the canopy and offer a healthier growing space for the branches.


Is the tree hollow or decaying?

It’s often difficult to tell from the outside what is going on inside the wood of a tree. But there are a few indicators to look for: mushrooms growing at the base of the trunk, gashes or splits in the bark, branch stubs left behind from an earlier breakage, holes or hollows in the trunk, or the presence of insects and/or beetles in the tree. These may indicate a decaying interior that will impact the structural integrity of the tree.


Are the tree roots damaged?

Broken or compacted roots, as well as a change in the water source, may cause damage to the foundation of the tree. A weakened root system will cause browning of branches up in the crown. If one side of the root system is compromised, the tree may start to lean. 


Often it seems that trees are simply out there doing their thing! It’s a good idea, though, to regularly check for signs of unhealthiness. Get the professional opinion of a tree expert. Most tree service companies offer free evaluations. Your trees may require only a healthy pruning to reinforce them and preserve that much-needed shade you’ve been enjoying.

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