When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your trees, paying attention to even the smallest details can make a big difference. Whether it’s changes in the bark, cracks in the trunk, reduced foliage, or discoloured leaves, any of these signs can be an indicator of a sick tree. Understanding the reasons behind these changes is crucial in determining the right course of action, but it’s important to remember that not all changes are a cause for concern. A professional arborist is the best resource for assessing the situation and determining the exact cause of any changes in your tree.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common signs of a sick tree and what they may mean.
Table of Contents
Tree Bark Changes
The appearance of the bark can change due to a variety of reasons, including disease, insect infestations, injury, or environmental factors such as extreme temperature changes or drought. Some common signs of a sick tree that can be seen on the bark include:
- Cracks and fissures: Deep cracks or fissures in the bark can be an indicator of a serious health problem or environmental stress.
- Discolouration: A change in the colou of the bark can be a sign of a disease or pest infestation.
- Cankers: Cankers are sunken areas in the bark that can be an indicator of a fungal or bacterial disease.
- Mushrooms or fungi: The presence of mushrooms or fungi growing on the bark can be a sign of decay inside the tree.
- Bark peeling: Bark that is peeling or flaking off in large pieces can be a sign of environmental stress or disease.
It’s important to keep in mind that some trees naturally have a textured bark that may change over time, so it’s always best to consult with a professional arborist to determine the exact cause of any changes in the bark and whether or not the tree is truly sick.
Cracks in the Tree Trunk
There are several factors that can cause cracks in a tree trunk, including:
- Mechanical damage: Trees can be damaged by heavy winds, falling objects, or vehicles, which can cause cracks in the trunk.
- Disease: Certain diseases, such as heart rot, can weaken the structure of the trunk and cause it to crack.
- Drought stress: Drought conditions can cause the tree to lose moisture and become more brittle, leading to cracks in the trunk.
- Rapid growth: Trees that grow rapidly can put a lot of stress on the trunk and cause it to crack.
Cracks in the trunk can also lead to other problems, such as insect infestations and decay. If you notice cracks in the trunk of a tree, it is best to consult a certified arborist to determine the cause and to determine the best course of action. They may recommend treatment or removal of the tree, depending on the severity of the issue.
Reduced foliage is one of the signs that can indicate a sick tree. Trees are usually able to produce a full crown of leaves, but if a tree has reduced foliage, it could mean that it is struggling to produce enough leaves due to a variety of reasons. Some common causes of reduced foliage include:
- Drought stress: If a tree does not receive enough water, it may not be able to produce a full crown of leaves.
- Pest infestations: Certain pests, such as caterpillars or aphids, can feed on the leaves of a tree, reducing its foliage.
- Disease: Some diseases, such as Dutch elm disease or oak wilt, can cause a tree to lose its leaves.
- Environmental stress: Extreme temperatures, exposure to harsh winds, or soil compaction can all lead to reduced foliage in a tree.
It is important to have a tree assessed by a certified arborist if you suspect that it may be sick. The arborist can help diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate course of action
Discoloured leaves in trees can be an indication of a sick tree. A change in the colour of leaves can indicate that the tree is under stress, which can be caused by various factors such as disease, pests, environmental stress, and nutrient deficiencies. Some common causes of discoloured leaves include:
- Disease: Certain diseases, such as leaf spot, powdery mildew, and anthracnose, can cause leaves to turn yellow, brown, or black.
- Pests: Pests, such as aphids and caterpillars, can feed on the leaves of a tree, causing them to turn yellow or brown.
- Environmental stress: Extreme temperatures, drought, and high winds can cause leaves to turn yellow or brown.
- Nutrient deficiencies: A lack of essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, can cause leaves to turn yellow.
It’s important to note that discoloured leaves can also be a natural part of the tree’s life cycle, especially in deciduous trees that shed their leaves in the fall. If you suspect that your tree is sick, it’s best to consult a professional arborist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Fungal diseases are a type of plant disease caused by fungi. Fungi invade the plant and feed on its tissues, leading to symptoms such as discolouration, wilting, leaf drop, cankers, and dieback. Some fungal diseases can also cause root rot and can lead to the death of the entire plant if not treated in time.
Here are some common types of fungal diseases that can affect trees:
Dutch Elm DiseaseThis disease affects elm trees and is caused by the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi. Symptoms include yellowing and wilting of leaves, followed by death of branches and eventually the entire tree.
Oak WiltThis disease affects oak trees and is caused by the fungus Bretziella fagacearum. Symptoms include rapid wilting and death of leaves on individual branches, followed by death of the entire tree.
AnthracnoseThis disease affects many types of trees, including maple, ash, and oak, and is caused by several species of fungi. Symptoms include brown or black spots on leaves, wilting, and dieback of branches.
Powdery MildewThis disease affects many types of trees and is caused by various species of fungi. Symptoms include a white, powdery growth on leaves, stems, and flowers.
Phytophthora Root RotThis disease affects many types of trees and is caused by the water mold Phytophthora. Symptoms include yellowing and wilting of leaves, stunted growth, and eventual death of the tree.
It’s important to regularly inspect trees for signs of fungal disease and to address the problem promptly to prevent the spread of the disease and protect other trees in the area.
Tree pests refer to insects, mites, nematodes, and other invertebrates that feed on trees and can cause damage to them. These pests can weaken a tree and make it more susceptible to disease and environmental stress. Identifying a sick tree due to tree pests is often accompanied by visible signs such as yellowing leaves, wilting, and leaf drop, as well as other symptoms like holes in the leaves or branches, sticky substances on the leaves or bark, and the presence of insect populations. To accurately identify a tree pest problem, it’s best to consult with a professional arborist or entomologist who can diagnose the specific pest and determine the best course of treatment to protect the tree’s health.
Deadwood in trees refers to any part of the tree that is no longer alive, including dead branches, twigs, stems, or trunk. Identifying deadwood in a tree can be an important step in diagnosing the overall health of the tree. A tree may have deadwood for a variety of reasons, including disease, pests, damage from storms, or simply aging. In some cases, the presence of deadwood in a tree may indicate that it is suffering from a serious condition that could eventually lead to its death. On the other hand, if the tree is healthy, it may still have some deadwood, which is natural and does not necessarily indicate a problem. In either case, it is important to remove deadwood from trees, as it can serve as a habitat for pests and disease, and can also pose a safety hazard if it falls from the tree.
Changes in the Soil Around the Tree
Soil changes can be one of the indicators of a sick tree. For example, if the soil around the base of a tree becomes excessively dry and compact, it may be a sign that the tree is not getting enough water. On the other hand, if the soil is consistently moist, it could be a sign of root rot.
In addition, changes in the color or texture of the soil can also be an indication of a problem with the tree. For example, if the soil around a tree becomes discolored, it may indicate a problem with the tree’s roots, such as a fungal infection. If the soil is extremely light in color, it may indicate that the tree is not getting enough nutrients, while if it is dark in color, it could indicate that the tree is getting too much water.
It’s important to note that soil changes alone are not enough to diagnose a sick tree, but they can be a useful clue to help identify potential problems. Other factors such as the tree’s leaves, branches, and overall appearance should also be taken into consideration. If you suspect your tree is sick, it’s best to consult a professional arborist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Bark inclusion refers to the presence of foreign material trapped inside a tree’s bark. Bark inclusions can be caused by various factors, including pests, diseases, physical damage, or mechanical injury. The presence of bark inclusions can be a sign of a sick tree, as it can disrupt the flow of water, nutrients, and other vital substances within the tree.
Bark inclusions can also provide a habitat for pests or diseases to live and reproduce, causing further damage to the tree. For example, wood-boring insects like bark beetles can lay their eggs in the bark inclusions, and as the larvae hatch, they can tunnel through the wood, weakening the tree’s structure and making it more susceptible to collapse. Similarly, fungal spores and spores of infected plant material can become trapped in bark inclusions and start to rot, leading to decay and a decline in the tree’s health.
It’s important to note that not all bark inclusions are indicative of a sick tree, and the presence of bark inclusions alone does not necessarily mean that a tree is unhealthy. However, the presence of bark inclusions should be taken into consideration along with other signs of tree health to determine if a tree is in need of treatment or removal.
What to do if you identify a sick tree?
In some cases, it may be necessary to call in an arborist to help assess the tree’s health and determine the best course of action. An arborist is a professional trained in the care of trees and has the expertise to accurately diagnose any problems the tree may be facing.
If a tree is sick, it may need to be removed to prevent the spread of disease to other trees or to protect property and people from falling branches or a possible collapse. Before making any decisions, it’s important to get a professional evaluation from an arborist, who will be able to assess the tree and make recommendations based on their findings.