CAUTION: Is Your Tree Diseased? (Signs & Symptoms You NEED to Know)

January 5, 2021

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How do you know if a tree is diseased? This is a vital question for homeowners and commercial property owners to consider, as diseased trees might invite termites and other bothersome pests. Damaged, diseased trees are also at risk of losing branches or outright toppling, which can mean costly property damage and injury to anyone in the vicinity!

To know if a tree is diseased, infested, or just stressed, check these 6 common signs of poor tree health:

  1.   Chewed or otherwise distorted foliage
  2.   Stunted foliage or leaf growth
  3.   White spots
  4.   Cottony white masses
  5.   Holes along the bark
  6.   Stunted tree growth including leaning

Knowing if a tree is diseased and what all these symptoms indicate is the first step toward addressing these issues and keeping your tree healthy and strong. It’s also vital to know when a tree is beyond saving so you can schedule tree removal services before it topples or otherwise causes damage to your property.

A professional arborist or tree services contractor can inspect a tree and note if it’s diseased and can be salvaged. Note some added details about common signs that a tree is diseased and how to address causes of disease and damage, and when it’s time to call in a professional!

evaluation of tree health

How Do You Know If a Tree Is Diseased?

A quick inspection of your tree’s limb, branches, and leaves can often tell you if it’s diseased or otherwise needs some TLC. Consider a bit more information about common signs of tree disease and then call an arborist or tree services contractor as needed.

  • Chewed or otherwise distorted foliage

Small holes and jagged or otherwise uneven leaf edges often indicate infestation and resultant disease. If you notice holes along a leaf front of what appears to be jagged leaf edges, call an arborist to check for infestation and needed treatment.

  • Stunted foliage or leaf growth

Insects and diseases sap a tree of moisture and nutrients, which results in stunted foliage or leaf growth. You might notice bare branches, dry leaves, or wilted leaves on a diseased tree. If so, don’t assume you should simply prune those branches but call an arborist as soon as possible, to address that infestation or other condition.

  • White spots on leaves and the tree itself

Scale insects are tiny white bugs that drain a tree of its nutrients. These insects collect in masses that look like white spots on leaves and the tree itself. Rinsing off these insects helps protect the tree from further damage but that tree might also need some added care to return to good health, including chemical treatment and better soil irrigation.

  • Cottony white masses

Wooly aphids are often mistaken for cotton growth or white mold on a tree. As with scale insects, you can rinse off those aphids to protect a tree but it’s also vital that a tree care contractor check the tree’s condition. He or she can note resultant damage and if the tree needs pruning or other care, and if the tree is completely clear of an infestation.

  • Holes along the bark

Holes along tree bark often indicate wood-boring insects such as termites, or a lack of nutrients for the tree so that the bark cracks and breaks away. Those holes often provide a nesting place for bothersome insects who lay eggs or otherwise burrow into those holes, making damage even worse over time. If you notice holes in tree bark, call a tree service contractor right away!

  • Stunted tree growth including leaning

Nonnative trees might struggle to grow in an inhospitable climate; a palm tree might struggle to grow in a cold climate, for example. However, tree disease, root rot, and other conditions will stunt tree growth so that it’s often smaller than expected.

Weak or diseased trees might also start to lean, as a damaged or weak tree is not strong enough to stand upright. Leaning trees are especially dangerous as they might crack and then topple, so call an arborist or tree care service for a full tree inspection, treatment, and needed bracing.

tree cabling and bracing

Can a Diseased Tree Be Saved?

As with your own health, a diseased tree can often be saved depending on its condition and how quickly you start treating it! Removing insect infestations and correcting root rot, along with added nutrients and bracing as needed, can allow a tree to grow healthy and strong once again.

In some cases, however, disease or infestation may have ravished a tree so severely that it’s beyond salvaging. Severe bark damage and loss or large-scale infestation may affect a tree’s overall condition so that it cannot replace that bark or grow new leaves.

Your property’s soil conditions also affect how well a tree can heal; nutrient-rich soil feeds trees while strong soil allows it to stand tall and stay healthy. If your property’s soil is overly moist or sandy or lacking nutrients for any reason, a tree might struggle to grow even with treatment.

How Can You Tell If a Tree Has Root Rot?

Healthy roots are firm and typically whitish in color. Soft brown roots, and especially those that feel soggy to the touch, are typically rotted. Root rot also encourages the growth of fungi along the roots, so you might notice spores and other growth.

Roots absorb moisture and nourishment from the soil; when roots rot, the tree then also struggles to grow and thrive. Leaves often wilt and fall away, and new leaves might not appear during the tree’s sprouting season. In extreme cases, the tree can die within days or weeks of developing severe root rot!

root and stump rot

Correcting root rot

Root rot is typically the result of overly moist soil. Properties with poor drainage will often collect moisture around tree roots so that they then rot away.

It’s vital that you check your property’s grade or slope, or provide needed drainage around the tree, before attempting to correct root rot. Soil should also be loose enough to allow proper airflow and oxygenation, and for roots to stretch and grow through that soil.

Pruning away damaged roots and removing any fungi or other growths on the roots is also vital, so that healthy roots can grow. To ensure you don’t damage the tree or cut away too much root growth, call an arborist or tree care professional if you suspect a tree on your property suffers with root rot.

What Does an Unhealthy Tree Look Like?

Disease and infestation are not the only concerns for a tree on your property! A tree might be disease-free and not suffering an infestation, but still struggling to thrive. Poor soil conditions, air pollution, persistent damage to its trunk, and poor-quality pruning all affect a tree’s overall condition and can lead to stunted tree growth. Signs of an unhealthy tree include:

  • Bare spots along the trunk or branches
  • Branches without leaves or needles
  • Fungus growth along the trunk base
  •  Wilting
  • Oozing sap

Healthy trees should show signs of thriving; this includes growth along the trunk every year, full foliage or healthy needles, an upright stance, and strong bark that resists peeling. If you don’t notice these signs or see any of the signs of an unhealthy tree listed above, call a tree care service or arborist near you!

No Leaves, Does it Equal Death for the Tree?

Healthy, vibrant leaves are a sign of a healthy, vibrant tree! No leaves, damaged leaves, or otherwise abnormal leaves are often a sign of an unhealthy, damaged, or diseased tree. Trees also have an expected lifespan; lack of healthy leaves can mean that tree is simply dying of the equivalent of old age.

If your tree’s leaves are sparse or unusual in any way, call a tree service company or arborist. Your property might need added hydration and watering for the tree to thrive. Correcting diseases or infestations can also allow a tree to grow healthy again.

An arborist or tree care company can also note the overall condition of a tree and if it’s dead or dying, or at risk of falling branches and toppling. In those cases, it’s often best to schedule tree removal services.

Saving Your  Stressed Tree

A stressed tree is typically salvageable, with a little TLC! If the tree is native or otherwise able to thrive in your local area, note a few simple tips for encouraging healthy tree growth and saving a stressed tree.

  • Mature trees often require about one inch of water every week, either from rainfall or irrigation, to grow. During a dry season or if your property’s soil is overly dry, consider an irrigation system to provide the tree with adequate hydration. Mulch will also help keep the soil hydrated.
  • Professional pruning is also vital for saving a stressed tree. Trees expend energy supporting all their branches, including decaying or otherwise damaged limbs.
  • Pruning those limbs away, as well as cutting overgrowth so a tree gets needed sunlight and air circulation, ensures a tree grows healthy and strong.
  • While pruning is vital for tree health, it’s just as important that this work is performed by a pro! Improper pruning methods, including cutting branches at the wrong angle or cutting too many branches, wounds trees and can do more harm than good. To ensure healthy tree growth, call a tree service contractor for needed pruning and trimming.

Can a Dead Tree Be Saved?

If part of a tree is decaying or outright dead, you might be able to trim away that part of the tree and then encourage healthy growth. Reversing reasons for decay, such as pest treatment to remove an infestation, can also help a stressed or drying tree to get healthy again.

tree removal process

However, if a tree is outright dead, there is typically no way to bring it back to life and good health. In that case, it’s best to have the tree removed before it begins to split and lose branches or topple outright.

Rhode Island Tree Removal is proud to offer this information to our readers and hope that you find it helpful! If you’re still wondering, how do you know if a tree is diseased, or if you need tree services in Rhode Island, give us a call. We offer full-service tree care and removal, and stand behind all our work with a full guarantee you can trust!

 

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