HandyHomeMasterBloghttps://handyhomemaster.com/how-to-tell-if-a-tree-is-dead/How to Tell if a Tree is Dead

Learn How to Recognize if a Tree in Your Garden Died – Signs and Symptoms

Last Updated: 02 September 2020

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Like everything else on the planet, trees also die. But have you ever seen a dead tree? If you enjoy walking in the woods there is no chance that you didn’t come across one or two but you haven’t realized it. The thing is that although everyone can notice when something is off with a tree, how to determine if a tree is dead is a whole different story.

How Long Does it Take for a Tree to Die?

How Long Does it Take for a Tree to Die

Before we go on with talking about how to tell if a tree is dead we will discuss the lifespan of trees. There isn’t a general lifespan of trees because it varies on several factors. For example, you know how you can determine how long the animal will live based on its size? The same way size plays an important role here – small decorative trees usually don’t live longer than 15 -20 years; the average life of a maple tree is somewhere between 75 and 100 years while really big ones like oaks and pines can live 200 – 300 years. Some species such as sequoias can live much longer – for millennia or possibly more.

However, only some trees will die of old age. Most of them, unfortunately, die prematurely due to different external factors – disease, pollution, soil erosion, insects, etc.

Dying Tree Symptoms

Dying Tree Symptoms

If you want to know how to tell if a tree is dead you should get informed about the symptoms. Unlike flowers that generally die suddenly before you even notice that something is wrong trees exhibit different signs that can warn us they are sick. We are going to check now what are the signs of a dead tree so you can understand better whether there is a way to help or not.

When you are wondering how to know if a tree is dead you should keep in mind that there are various signs and they vary greatly depending on the type. Generally, when you notice that there are very few leaves you can be sure that there is a serious problem. Another sign that the tree is severely sick is when the bark becomes brittle and falls off the tree by itself.


We know that some, like deciduous trees, lose all of their leaves in winter only to get new ones in spring. If you notice that leaves are falling off rapidly in the middle of summer then you can be sure that your tree has a serious problem. When leaves on evergreen trees become brown this also indicates a disease. Additionally when you are wondering how I know if my tree is dead check if brown leaves are clinging on branches in fall or winter. Usually, when everything is alright, leaves fall on the ground when the time comes. If they don’t it means that your tree is likely too far gone.



When you see that some branches start to lose bark it means that there is a problem that you need to deal with. In some extreme cases, dead branches begin to break off, and then you know that the tree will quickly die as well. Also, you will notice fungus or wood-boring insects on branches when they are dead. Many people are asking, does cutting off dead branches help a tree? Of course- some trees, like pecan, can prune themselves but most don’t. That means you need to do it – when you notice such kinds of problems remove the diseased parts as quickly as possible.


When there is no bark on a trunk you know there is a problem. Also, the presence of carpenter ants indicates that the tree is sick as well as the appearance of insect holes. Additionally, if you see that there is fungus keep in mind that this calls for attention.


Sometimes we are wondering – is my tree dead or dormant? If roots appear slimy, or there is a lot of fungus and insects such as carpenter ants you can be pretty sure that the tree is dying. Additionally, if there are knots in fine fibers of root it is very unlikely that it will be possible to save the tree.

Other Considerations

Scratch/Break Test

A simple way to determine if the tree is healthy is to make a scratch test. If the inside of the branch is green and fresh when you scratch it a bit the tree is a picture of health. Alternatively to scratching you can break a piece of branch.


We have already mentioned fungus. The appearance of it as well as wood-boring insects is a definite sign that there is a problem with a tree. If you notice it in time it might not be too late to save it.

Should a Dead Tree Be Removed?

Whatever is the reason your tree died you should consider removing it. There are several reasons for it besides mere aesthetics.

Should a Dead Tree Be Removed
  • Dead trees attract pests;
  • Tree diseases are contagious;
  • Branches might fall;
  • Trees might completely break and cause bigger damage.

Wrapping Up

As you could see there are plenty of ways how to tell if a tree is dead. Of course, as we mentioned besides these other signs are depending on a specific type of tree. However, these are some general symptoms that indicate that your trees need your help. Before we leave we would like to remind you that you can find other interesting texts on HandyHomeMaster. If you liked this one you might be interested to read about brush cutter for small trees.

What would you do if you saw the dying tree in your garden? What about your methods of saving the trees? share your practice results in the comments below.

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