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When Should I Cut Down My Tree?

Most people have fond memories of a special tree. Maybe it is the tree you climbed all of the time when you were young, or the home of the treehouse you played in as a child, there are a lot of reasons people have a hard time parting with the trees in their lives. But, as hard as it may be to part with a particular tree, once that tree dies it becomes a big safety risk for not only your property, but also your neighbor’s home and property, as well as the people living in the general vicinity of the tree. This blog post is meant to help you figure out if your tree is dead, as well as what to do with it if it’s time to cut it down.

Is My Tree Dead?

Perhaps... It may look like it’s dead, but it could also possibly be dormant. It is also possible that only a section of the tree is dead with just a few branches affected.

Fortunately, there are some telltale signs of a dying tree you can look for to get an idea of what may be affecting your tree. However, it's important to remember that each tree will show it is dying in different ways. There a a few apps available these days to identify the tree you are working with, as well as some symptoms that are specific to that species.


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Is there fungus growing near the base of the tree?

We do not mean moss (pictured to the left). Moss is not an issue — in plenty of cases it is natural. Lichen (pictured to the right) is a type of moss combined with

fungi, and this is simply an indication that a tree is growing slowly, but not a sign that the tree is dead. We are talking about actual fungus (pictured beneath). Fungi and mushrooms are you should be on the lookout for, as it is a symptom that your tree is dying. Fungi and mushrooms will attach to the tree when there is inner decay. It’s a sign that the tree is rotting from the inside out.

Are the roots showing along the ground?

When trees start growing along the surface of the soil rather than into the ground, it can be a sign that the tree is having trouble anchoring into the soil. While the tree may not be immediately in danger, a shallow root system will make it more susceptible to harm from bad weather, animals and people— and the damage these things can cause can eventually lead to the death of the tree.

A shallow root system could cause a tree to develop a lean. A leaning tree does not always mean it’s time to cut the tree down, however. Trees lean for a variety of reasons at different stages in their life. A tree may lean because it was planted improperly, or that the soil around it is unstable.

Is there green underneath the bark?

Sometimes a tree may look like it’s dying, but it could actually be preparing itself for extreme weather. How can you tell if your tree is dead or dormant? The scratch test is usually the easiest way. Scratch a little bit off of a tiny branch, if you see a layer of green tissue underneath, that is the living cambium layer. This is what supplies the tree with its food, nutrients and water. That means that the tree is alive. If there’s no green layer, it means that the area where you did the test is dead, but does not necessarily mean the entire tree is dead. Repeat the test as needed on different areas of the tree to determine if your tree is still alive, but if you are still concerned after a few tests, call a tree care professional to come take a look.


Is the tree showing signs of stress?

Stressed trees will often grow shoots, which are small branches near the base of the trunk. Their presence can indicate something is wrong with the tree.

Pro Tip: When It Comes to Your Trees, Trust Your Gut

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You know your trees best. You’ll be the first one to notice something just doesn’t look right. If you see something looks off, it might be.


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When to Cut Down a Dead Tree

Just because a tree is dying doesn’t mean it needs to be removed right away. A dying tree could take years to fully pass, and can remain sturdy even when sick or damaged. Make sure a qualified and experienced tree care professional comes to take a look at any tree you are considering removing to ensure that it is actually dying or dead before removal.


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Will it damage your home?

If an experienced tree care professional believes your tree is in danger of falling and it might hit your house, it's time to consider removing it.

Is the tree structurally sound?

Trees can be hollow without the tree being dead. The question, though, is if the tree can be structurally sound while hollow. Any tree that is more than 40-percent hollow could be an issue. If more than 40-percent of that meat — that’s what we call the wood of the tree — is gone, it becomes what we call a high-risk. It doesn’t mean that it is dead, because it may not be. It means that it could be at a high-risk of falling.

Still unsure if your tree is dead or dying, or if it needs to be cut down? Give us a call or schedule a hazardous tree evaluation on our website for prompt and professional Williamsburg tree service. We are experienced tree care technicians that can resolve your tree problems, regardless of your projects size or scope. We offer a wide range of tree removal and tree services, for both residential and commercial properties. We even offer free estimates and free tree care advice!

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