How Do You Know When One Of Your Backyard Trees Is Dying?

How Do You Know When One Of Your Backyard Trees Is Dying?

28 March 2022
 Categories: , Blog

All living things will eventually die, and while that might sound grim, it's something to remember when you consider the trees in your backyard. The lifespan of a tree will vary considerably, with some smaller trees (such as an ornamental cherry tree) only living for 15 to 20 years. You're unlikely to have a bristle stone pine tree in your backyard (since they're native to the US), but these trees can live for 5000 years (and counting). Whatever the species of tree in your backyard might be, how do you know when it's coming to the end of its life?


It's not like a tree suddenly gives up overnight. The decline of a tree is gradual and can be quite subtle at first. The vitality of its foliage can be a clear sign. Yellowing, wilting foliage is a clear indication, as are deciduous trees that regrow less foliage during the spring months. If it's become a necessary habit to clear discarded leaves from around the tree, then the tree may be coming to an end.

Twigs and Branches

In addition to leaves, a dying tree will begin to shed twigs and even small branches. Healthy growth should have some elasticity and flexibility, so when the discarded wood is dry and brittle, it demonstrates the poor health of its former host. Of course, there's the chance that the tree will soon no longer be able to support its larger branches. If these are shed, then the tree can in fact become a hazard. 


Leaves are starting to be shed, and so are branches—with sections of bark often detaching at the same time as the tree continues to decline. The missing bark can expose the tree's cambium, or when this has also been shed—the tree's sapwood. This at least allows you to inspect the tree's internal structure to some degree. There may be signs of parasitic infection (which can have contributed to the tree's death), or the wood may be conspicuously dry (and may already appear to be dead). 


Sadly, though sensibly, tree removal may be the next step. It's best to contact a professional to do this, as large trees are often removed in sections, requiring specialist equipment. Remember that large trees (even those on private property) are often protected by a preservation order. An arborist can confirm that the tree is dead prior to removing it, and you may need written confirmation of this if your local council (who enforces preservation orders) requires documentation. You may wish to enquire with your local council before proceeding.

Nothing lives forever, and when it's time to say goodbye to one of your trees, you must ensure that it's handled safely.

For more information on tree removal, contact a professional near you.