How Do I Tell if a Tree is Dead or Just Sick?

Many homeowners wonder how to spot or recognize a dead tree or one that is dying in their yard. It is important to ask these questions because a dead or diseased tree can pose a dangerous threat to its' immediate surroundings. A dead specimen will eventually fall and deteriorate, causing structural damage or harm to whatever it hits. Cars, houses, electrical wiring, and even people are potential victims of a perishing tree. It is good for homeowners to wonder about landscpae care and how to distinguish healthy plants and shrubs from sick ones. Continue reading to learn how to tell the difference between diseased, dead, and living specimens for the safety of your property and family.


A dead specimen will not sprout any new buds on its limbs and branches. Every spring, tiny green buds will appear on healthy saplings; which signifies new branch or limb growth. If you notice through the seasons that a certain specimen is not re-blooming, there could be a problem with its health.

Dead trees will also have dry and brittle bark. As a test, break off a small branch to see if it bends or snaps right off. If the branch snaps off in a dry and quick manner, then the specimen is most likely dead. If the branch is flexible and bends, it is a sign of life. Also, look at the inside of the broken branch; if it looks green and moist then it is perfectly fine.

Another easily spotted sign of a dead specimen is the trunk bark. Underneath the bark of the tree, there should be a moist, green, and meaty material. This means the tree is healthy and living. Use your fingernail or a small knife and scrape off a small section of the bark and look for these signs. If the bark is dry, dark brown, and flaky, it could mean the specimen is dead.


A tree doesn't have to be dead to be a potential danger to its surroundings. Diseased or dying trees are also dangerous to have near properties and high traffic areas. The signs to a diseased and sick tree are very similar to the signs of a dead one; however, they expire from the inside out, so they can appear fairly healthy may actually be dying.

Several variables can make a tree sick. For example, insects and other pests can cause substantial damage to any type of plant or organism. One common infestation comes from the Emerald Ash Borer. Over fertilization, mold, storm damage, and more are all other possibilities that can cause illness.

All Trees

All trees, either dead or diseased, should be removed by a trained and professional technician. They retain the proper equipment and industry knowledge to safely remove or treat all specimens without posing any further harm to the property. Give your local tree care company a call for advice and information about tree service near you.