Is My Tree Dying or Dead? Here’s How to Tell and What You Can Do

Is My Tree Dying or Dead? Here’s How to Tell and What You Can Do

You can usually tell when something is off about your tree. After spending so much time admiring it, things like brown leaves or moldy growth stick out like a sore thumb.

It’s a little harder to tell just how much trouble your tree could be in, though. That’s why Bryan, a Davey blog reader from British Columbia reached out. He was “concerned that some of our trees might be dying or in danger of falling on our house or other buildings,” and wanted to know some dying tree symptoms.

A dead or dying tree is nothing to play guessing games with. Take these simple steps to check on your tree and find out just what it needs.

Symptoms of a Dying Tree

Is my tree dead or alive?

It’s important to know the difference between a dead and declining tree. Usually, sick trees can be saved, but a dead tree is a huge risk to you and your home.

The good news is you can help reduce that risk in just under a minute!

Try this quick test: Using your fingertip or a pocket knife, scratch one of the tree’s twigs. If it’s moist and green underneath, your tree’s alive.

If it’s brown and brittle, take a few more steps to inspect the tree:

  1. Scratch a couple more twigs to see if any are fresh green underneath.
  2. See if there are mushrooms or other fungi growing at the tree’s base.
  3. Check the trunk for peeling bark, cracks or splits.
  4. Look up into the canopy for hanging branches, deformed leaves or missing leaves.
  5. Taken together, these signs point to a dead tree. If your tree failed the scratch test and you see one or more of these signs, call your arborist as soon as possible look and remove it if necessary.

How to Save a Dying Tree

If your tree passed the scratch test, that’s great! Now the next step is to find out if and how you can save your sick tree. The most reliable way to do this is to have a certified arborist inspect the tree in person and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you want to learn a bit more about what’s going on before calling, look for these symptoms of tree stress and see what the most common solution is.

Is your tree in trouble? Does it need to be removed? Call your arborist for a free consultation.


  • The Tree Doctor July 12, 2018 >Hi Thomas, I would highly recommend contacting a certified arborist and having them come out and take a look at your trees. They will be able to diagnose the problem and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area. Here is a resource that can help you with hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree care company: Best of luck to you and your trees! Here if you have any more questions, Thomas.
  • Thomas Surlas July 10, 2018 >We have two different trees in trouble 120 ft apart. Seems like different degrees of dying or drying out sections of the trees.
  • The Tree Doctor October 4, 2017 >Hi Faye. We would be happy to come take a look at your maple tree. I have passed along your request to your local office, so they should be reaching out soon to schedule your free consultation. Or, if you’d prefer, you can contact them at 615.800.4977 or Talk more soon, Faye.
  • Faye Goggins October 1, 2017 >Expercing problems with maple tree leaves missing at top of tree and is there a charge to look at it. Thanks
Add a comment:
Related Blog Posts

Request a consultation

  • How would you like to be contacted?
*Please fill out all required fields.